A remarkable new era began for Airbus and for air travel today when the A380 – the world’s first double-deck passenger aircraft – was unveiled.

The world took its first official look at the biggest airliner yet built during a spectacular ceremony attended by the leaders of four countries, the heads of 14 airlines and operators – Airbus’ A380 customers – shareholders and thousands of invited onlookers, including hundreds of journalists.

Airbus President and CEO Noël Forgeard welcomed British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero to witness an historic event seen as a milestone in aviation.

A stunning sound and light show – featuring fireworks and illuminated fountains – captured the magical romance of flying and conjured up the spirit and imagination of Airbus, reaching its climax in the unveiling of the A380 at the Jean-Luc Lagardère Final Assembly Line in Toulouse.

The show told, through a storyteller projected onto a vast screen, how the A380 has become a reality thanks to the Airbus policy of listening to its customers and then applying innovative skills and expertise to make their wishes for their dream aircraft come true. Four giant human figures, representing the cultures of France, Germany, Spain and Britain paraded on stage. A flying machine represented Man’s romantic desire to fly as it has manifested itself through the centuries. Images of Airbus aircraft, from the A300/A310 Family, A320 Family and A330/A340 Family, flew across a sky backdrop and round the auditorium. Airbus’ A380 customers also appeared on screen expressing why they wanted the A380: its capacity, innovation, range, fuel and cost efficiency, environmental friendliness and cabin comfort.

As four children released the veil to reveal the gleaming new aircraft, the first sight of the Airbus flagship of the 21st century drew loud and spontaneous applause from the audience of nearly 5,000.

Simultaneously revealed was the brand new Airbus livery – crossing lines of blue, grey and white symbolising the blend of cultures and innovations, which has been the cornerstone of the company’s success.

Before joining shareholders to press a button to light up the A380 and christen the aircraft, Noël Forgeard spoke of the “optimism” and “commitment driven by confidence in the future” which the success of Airbus and the A380 programme embodied.

All four national leaders spoke of the great achievement the A380 represented for Airbus employees and for the company’s shareholders and suppliers worldwide.

It was a day of enormous pride for all: a vibrant, jubilant ceremony on a grand scale befitting the world’s biggest and most advanced passenger aircraft.