Boeing engaged in a public campaign to cast doubt on the viability of the -800. Airbus has poorly defended the airplane, and its efforts to switch customers to the -900 further casts doubt. But officials insist the -800 has a future. The question is, when?
The current entry-into-service plan for the family is the A350-900 in the second half 2014; late 2016 for the A350-800 and 2017 for the A350-1000.
There are only two A350-800s scheduled for delivery in 2016, with the bulk in 2017, when the A350-1000 is due for delivery in reasonably sizable numbers.
Leeham News were told from several sources that Airbus is switching customers from the smallest model to larger versions in part to de-risk the program. Schedule on the A350-900 is already tight and resources are focused on this sub-type. Switching customers relieves pressure on these limited resources.
Another reason, expressed by Leahy: the A350-900 is more profitable for Airbus (though Airbus is offering incentives valued at “millions of dollars” to switch). Leahy also says switching to the A350-900 gives customers earlier delivery slots. In Leeham News are not quite sure how, but this is what he said.
Leeham News believes the increasing demand for the A350-1000 will prompt Airbus to re-sequence the EIS, moving the A350-800 from 2016/2017 to 2018. This will open slots in 2017 for the A350-1000 and ease integration pressure for Airbus.
But will Airbus keep the A350-800? “Our checks in the market with customers so far suggest the answer is yes. Abandoning the A350-800 will totally cede the middle-twin-aisle sector to the 787 and we doubt Airbus wants to do this.”
The A330 will be approaching its 30th year from EIS in 2024, and by then will reach the end of its natural life cycle, if not somewhat before. Airbus needs to come up with a solution to replace the A330.
Based on the article “Assessing the A350 program” published by Leeham News