The A380 jumbo arrives at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong Province, Oct. 17, 2011. The A380 plane of China Southern Airlines completed its first Beijing-Guangzhou flight Monday. (Xinhua/Li Fangyu)
GUANGZHOU, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- An Airbus A380 jet touched down at Guangzhou Baiyun Airport on Monday, marking the superjumbo jet's first commercial flight in China.
Departing Beijing for the southern city of Guangzhou at 10:00 a.m., the fully-loaded flight landed around 1:00 p.m. with more than 500 passengers aboard, including Chinese basketball player Yao Ming and mayor of Guangzhou Wan Qingliang.
"Flying on board the first A380 in our country is really different. I felt exceptionally comfortable, while the space available on other jets is quite narrow for me," said Yao who used to play with the U.S. Houston Rockets.
Many passengers snapped pictures of the plane, with some saying that they booked tickets well in advance because they were eager to fly on a new jet.
"I am so excited. My camera never left my hand," said passenger Zhou Xiaofei.
"The performance of the A380 is extraordinary. I felt more comfortable when piloting the plane," said Liu Xian, vice general manager with the China Southern Airlines, the operator of the superjumbo.
The A380 jumbo is scheduled to fly between Beijing and Guangzhou until Oct. 26 and then travel between Beijing and Shanghai from Oct. 27 to 29. And then it will be used on an international route afterwards.
China's domestic air travel market is predicted to grow 13.9 percent annually by 2014 and transport 379 million domestic air travel passengers, which will make the country the world's second-largest air travel market after the United States, according to a report released by the International Air Transport Association.
The purchase of an A380 jet is part of China's efforts to accommodate surging air travel demands unleashed by the country's economic boom.
Li Jiaxiang, chief of China's civil aviation administration, estimated that over 1.5 trillion yuan (235 billion U.S. dollars) will be invested in the civil aviation industry by 2015, adding about 2,000 aircraft to the country's fleet.
But industry insiders said China's civil aviation needs to improve while expanding. Civilian flights have long been plagued by constant delays, which the administration attributed to crowded air space as well as poor coordination between airlines and airports.
Airport management may also curb the growth of civil aviation. China plans to build 45 new airports by 2015, although more than 75 percent of its current 175 airports suffered from deficits in 2010, according to the administration.