(Reuters) – Airbus delivered its first A350 aircraft to Japan Air Lines on Thursday, saying the specially tailored version would start operating on Japan’s busy domestic routes.
The aircraft is also expected to serve demand during the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, Japanese officials said.
Airbus clinched its first jet order from Japan Air Lines in 2013, cracking a big national market long dominated by the European firm’s main rival, Boeing.
The $9.5 billion deal came after a lengthy campaign to woo JAL officials who were unfamiliar with Airbus aircraft, including their distinctive side-stick controls.
JAL Chairman Yoshiharu Ueki, a former pilot, said an experience on the A380 simulator had helped sway his decision to choose Airbus for JAL, which at the time was one of only two full-service airlines globally without any Airbus aircraft.
“I have the urge to take the control stick on the ferry flight to Tokyo,” he joked at a webcast ceremony in Toulouse.
Boeing dominates the market for wide-body jets in Japan but there is a more mixed market for smaller narrowbody jets.
The A350 will fly to Japan using traditional fuel blended with alternative fuel, said Airbus sales chief Christian Scherer. Planemakers and airlines have reiterated pledges to cut emissions sharply amid growing environmental pressure in Europe.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)