With much media fanfare, the first Airbus A350-900 was delivered to its customer of Qatar Airways.
Of course, there’s quite a bit of media about it, including:
So – what’s next on the menu? For Airbus, it’s a matter of one down, 779 aircraft to be delivered seven years after the first order was signed for the aircraft.
The A350 family is currently split into three:
- A350-800 – the first shrink – 32 aircraft
- A350-900 – The baseline model – 578 aircraft (one delivered)
- A350-1000 – The extend length body – 169 aircraft
Lets take a look at the subtypes:
Let’s be honest, if this plane gets built, pigs will probably fly first. With 32 orders on the book, it makes little sense for this plane to be built… and could be easier to get customers to convert to recently launched A330neo. This model can hold up to 276 passengers in a two class configuration. Carriers who have still have orders for this type include Aeroflot and Asiana
The first of the type to be built – and currently the most popular with 578 planes on the order book (and one delivered). This plane will hold 315 passengers in a two-class configuration. It’s competitors include the venerable Boeing 777-200ER as well as the 787-8/9 as well as the existing A330 series. Carriers who holder orders for this include Qatar Airways, Asiana, Finnair, Singapore Airlines, and Delta.
The big version of the A350, this will be able to hold 369 passengers in a two-class configuration. This model will be going toe to toe with Boeing’s big seller – the 777-300ER. It’s also going up against the new generation 777X series, as well as the upcoming 787-10. Again, carriers who have got this plane on order include Qatar Airways, British Airways, United, Cathay Pacific and Asiana.
All A350s are fitted with a variant of the Rolls Royce Trent XWB engine to power the plane (with different variants for the different models).
So what next?
Bedding down the plane into commercial service will be the priority. In addition, Airbus will be hoping for no major incidents during its introduction to service (one need only cast your mind back to the battery pack incident that ground the 787 for two months).
After Qatar Airways, Vietnam Airlines and Finnair will become the next carriers to get the A350-900s in their fleets, so there will be companies keeping an eye out as these planes are delivered.
Airbus will also be hoping for more sales now they have actual products in the air which will be flying passengers around, rather than demonstrators/experimental aircraft. With 778 orders on the book, Airbus will be chasing Boeing who have 1,055 787s on the order book – as well as 286 777X’s (the real future competition).
And for us the passenger?
Commercial service is due to commence on the 15th January on the Doha to Frankfurt route, with the second plane to convert the route to A350-900 operation entirely. The first pictures show a new environment with 1-2-1 up the front of the plane, and 3-3-3 down the back – which should be more comfortable than the Dreamliner due to the 18″ seat width.
How other airlines will fill their A350s will be up to them, but hopefully, the squeeze to a 10 across cabin will be put on hold for a while – although for those airlines who wish to put profits above comfort will be looking at the plane carefully.
For now, a new type plane has been delivered to a customer… marking the new lines of competition between Airbus and Boeing, with airline passengers the ones to sit aboard the planes and enjoy the results.
Let battle commence.
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