Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) will add six new airfield buses to its fleet next year to accommodate the expected November 2006 arrival of the Airbus 380 — the largest passenger aircraft.

The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners awarded a $4.2 million contract to North American Bus Industries, Inc. Monday, March 21st, for the purchase of six airfield buses, which operate on the alternative fuel of compressed natural gas.

The new airfield buses have a capacity for up to 140 passengers and their carry-on baggage.

The buses are needed for transportation to large aircraft, including the A-380, which is to begin service at LAX in fall 2006, said Harold Johnson, airport spokesman.

The A-380 aircraft can carry between 555 and 800 passengers, depending on seating configuration.

LAX currently has a fleet of 20 airfield buses that can carry 60 to 80 passengers each, but the new buses are more efficient, Johnson said.

“The current buses use alternative fuel, too, but they are getting older,” Johnson said. “The new buses handle more people and their luggage.”

The new airfield buses will be used to transport passengers between the terminals and the remote boarding gates at LAX, he said.

Seven international airlines have announced plans to operate the A-380, with service increasing from November 2006 through 2010. LAX expects to have seven to nine daily operations of the large aircraft, he said.

The airport plans to modify two boarding gates at the Tom Bradley International Terminal and four remote boarding facilities at the west end of the airfield to accommodate the A-380, airport officials said.

Three of the six airfield buses purchased under the $4.2 million contract will replace obsolete buses and the other three buses will be additions to the airport’s airfield bus fleet.

Johnson said the alternative-fuel airfield buses are “non-polluting” and will help improve the air quality at the airport.

LAX currently operates more than 400 alternative-fuel vehicles, which is more than 50 percent of the airport fleet, he said.