Airbus chief operating officer John Leahy refused to give specific details of compensation

Airbus will pay millions of dollars in compensation to airlines hit by delays in delivery of the European plane maker's new A380 superjumbo, a senior executive said Sunday.

Airbus chief operating officer John Leahy refused to give specific details of compensation.

"The airplane costs about US$285 million (Ђ243.65 million) a copy, so I think it is safe to say we are talking a couple of million dollars," Leahy told Australia's Nine Network.

"But let's not get into detail that's confidential between us and the customer," he added.

Qantas has ordered 12 of the A380 jets and is in negotiations for compensation after their delivery was shunted back by about six months to April 2007.

Singapore Airlines, which has ordered 10 of the jets, has complained about an eight-month delay in delivery to November 2006 and Malaysia Airlines, which has ordered six planes, also is unhappy with the postponement.

Leahy said Airbus already is close to selling 250 A380s, a number that will allow the company to break even on its development costs. "We are essentially there now. We have 159 firm orders and I have got about 100 options that are blocking delivery slots, most of them over the next five years," he said.

Leahy was speaking as an A380, the world's largest passenger jet, flew low over Sydney Harbour on the second leg of its three-city tour of Australia.

The Airbus A380 flew over the harbor and its famous bridge and opera house before touching down at Sydney Airport.

The giant plane was decked out in Qantas markings along its side but still carried the Airbus logo on its tail.

On Saturday, thousands of spectators turned out to watch the A380 touched down in Australia for the first time at Brisbane Airport after an overnight flight from Singapore, where it arrived Friday on the first leg of an Asian tour to woo new customers.

The white jet, as tall as a seven-story building and stretching about three-quarters of the length of a soccer field, is designed to carry 555 passengers but can be stretched to accommodate 800, Airbus says.

By 2006, 20 airports will be ready for the A380 including Singapore, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, Paris, Dubai and New York. By 2008, 38 airports will be ready and 60 by 2010, Airbus said in a statement.

Six other carriers in the region have ordered A380s. The 49 Asian and Australian orders make up 31 percent of 159 firm orders for the superjumbos.

The A380 prototype was originally due to arrive Tuesday in Singapore but Airbus postponed the trip to replace two of the plane's four engines.

The plane that arrived in Sydney was to fly to the southern city of Melbourne on Monday before returning to Brisbane to be the center point of 85th birthday celebrations for Qantas. It was to depart for Asia on Wednesday, reported AP. P.T.

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