Airbus will pitch the A380 at All Nippon Airways following the airline's recent confirmation that it will replace its 747-400 fleet from 2012 with "large widebodies".

The Japanese carrier - which had previously indicated it did not see a role for the ultra-large airliner in its fleet and would adopt the 777-300ER as its largest aircraft after its 747s were retired - is now expected to consider the Airbus giant in its evaluation process.

"We have not received ANA's request for proposals yet, but when we do, we will be offering the A380," says Airbus chief operating officer customers, John Leahy.

Earlier this month, ANA issued a mid-term plan for the period April 2008 to the end of March 2012 in which it says it plans to order large widebody aircraft for first delivery in 2012 or beyond. The airline says it will have retired its 19 Boeing 747-400s by March 2012.

Other types likely to be in the evaluation are the 777 - a type it already operates - 747-8I and possibly the A350 XWB. Leahy says he would not be surprised if the airline orders more 777s as part of the replacement plan, "but they were probably going to do that anyway".

Japan's two global network carriers, ANA and Japan Airlines, have been major operators of the 747 in its various guises, but both have so far baulked at ordering the aircraft's successor from Airbus. The country has strong manufacturing ties with Boeing, which Airbus believes has hindered its efforts to break into the market. The A380 has visited Tokyo and Osaka during its demonstration tours over the past two years.

Source: Flight International