VIDEO: BA to train A380 crews on Frankfurt route

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British Airways expects to begin operating short-haul Airbus A380 flights from the beginning of August, having selected Frankfurt as the familiarisation route.

The airline received its first (G-XLEA) on 4 July, the aircraft arriving at London Heathrow after a delivery flight from Toulouse.

BA A380 captain Dave Thomas says the airline will provisionally begin training flights at Manston airport on 15 July, operating around eight flights daily - including four afternoon flights intended to include cabin crew.

He says the carrier needs to log 330 sectors before it begins full long-haul service. BA has brought forward the type's debut, on the Los Angeles route, to 24 September.

Frankfurt has been selected for familiarisation because it is a "good sector length", he adds, close enough to enable two daily flights - and up to four later - but sufficiently distant to provide useful cruise time and "represent a long-haul flight".

Air France had used the London-Paris route but Thomas says the sector is "too short" for BA's needs.

The flights are part of an entry into service programme which will include customer service trials at Heathrow.

Thomas says the airline has 28 A380 pilots, including 20 training captains, and will need about 80 by the end of this year.

BA had intended to put the aircraft on the Los Angeles route from 15 October but is advancing the date to 24 September.

It is similarly opening the Hong Kong route earlier, on 22 October rather than in mid-November.

"Our customers are going to love the space, light and comfort on board," said BA chief executive Keith Williams, speaking as the airline took delivery of its first 469-seat aircraft.

BA is taking the latest weight variant of the A380, which is capable of being configured to achieve a maximum take-off weight of 575t, although the initial aircraft for the carrier will be 569t versions.

For the delivery flight from Toulouse the aircraft had a full crew but was limited to carrying about 50 passengers. It was relatively light, with a take-off weight just over 350t.

"When our aircraft are flown by British Airways, it's very good publicity for us," says Airbus chief Fabrice Bregier. "We're already a big partner of BA - the numbers of aircraft are impressive - but this is the first long-haul aircraft to join the fleet."

Three of the 12 A380s which BA has on order will arrive this year and five more in 2014.