Less than a handful of Airbus A350 XWB customers have selected a 10-abreast configuration in economy class for the twinjet, which has been advertised in the past as offering individual seat width of just 16.4”.
But Airbus has been quietly working on a configuration that would enable airlines to offer a seat that will be just shy of 17″ at 10-abreast, the airframer confirmed.
Though “we haven’t launched it” yet, said Airbus executive VP, strategy and marketing Dr. Kiran Rao in relation to the smidge-more-room 10-abreast layout, “you can play with the angles on the sidewalls and you can play a little with the armrest and then you can be very clever with the design of the seat. It will be 16.8” or 16.9”, something like that.”
This compares to the A350’s standard 9-abreast layout with 18” wide seats, which offers “a very comfortable layout” that 99% of customers have chosen, said Rao.
“We have been able to demo a near 17” seat at 10-abreast on the A350,” he revealed.
Kiran Rao admited that while airlines can get away with offering 17″ or less on longhaul flights of 12 to 14 hours, and “people will put up with it”, the configuration is far from ideal and “it’s simply not comfortable”.
“We have a few customers for regional operations that will choose a narrower seat. If you’re doing regional flights, with the A330 or potentially the A350, then a sub 17” seat works for them. And if they want to go 10-abreast, we offer the choice. The point of my story is that . Boeing cannot offer the choice therefore they are forced to give all of their customers a narrow seat, and in turn, their customers offer an inferior product.”
Rao is the first to admit that the difference between 17” and 18” width is noticeable.
The Airbus executive stresses that the economics of the A350 don’t require airlines to “go to that level of compromise”, and declined to disclose the airlines which have chosen 10-abreast for the traditionally 9-across aircraft, saying “I can’t give you the names of the customers.”