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Boeing has unveiled the latest version of its biggest aircraft, the 747, in a challenge to Airbus and its A380.

The Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental will be the longest commercial aircraft in operation when it launches at the end of this year. It will seat 467 passengers, about 50 more than the current 747, while burning about 16% less fuel per head than the 747-400.

The new version was introduced to an audience of 10,000 at the manufacturer’s Seattle plant on Sunday. It incorporates interior design elements of the 787 Dreamliner, which has yet to enter service.

The 747-8 will carry fewer passengers than the A380, which seats about 550 in a multiple-class cabin. Boeing claims the aircraft's cost per seat is 6% lower than that of the A380.

Boeing commercial airplanes president and chief executive Jim Albaugh said: “The new 747-8 features the latest technologies – applying many of the breakthroughs found on the 787 Dreamliner.”

Germany’s Lufthansa will be the first airline to fly the Intercontinental, along with Korean Air. The two carriers have ordered 33 of the aircraft.

Lufthansa group fleet management vice-president Nico Buchholz said: “We are looking forward to welcoming this new aircraft to our fleet.”

The 747 series has proved the most-popular intercontinental jet to date since its launch in 1968. Boeing is due to give an update on the progress of the Dreamliner, now delayed almost three years