14 November 2012

Qatar Airways, the launch customer, will convert #20 A350-800s into bigger A350 XWB

For second time in few days, another A350-800 customer has decided to convert their orders to bigger A350 version. But this time is not just “another customer”. Al Baker´s Qatar Airways was the launch customer of A350-800 and also it is the first customer for A350-900 and A350-1000 version.
Qatar Airways has shifted its order for 20 Airbus A350-800s to the larger -900 variant. It will be confirmed in coming days.
Speaking at a Doha press conference after the arrival of the carrier's first Boeing 787,Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker confirmed that it had ditched its A350-800s. Its order book for the type now comprises #60 -900s and #20 -1000s and it remains the launch customer for both variants.
 The Qatar Airways decision leaves Airbus with a shrinking backlog for the smallest A350 variant -stands at #92 firm orders-, raising questions about whether it’ll stick with the model. Airbus has already seen several customers (around 40%) swap A350-800 orders for larger variants, most recently Afriqiyah Airways.
 This is in line with market trend, upsizing to larger models,” Marcella Muratore, a spokeswoman for Airbus, said today in an interview. Muratore said she had no information to provide on which of the larger variants Qatar will take, but she said Airbus remains committed to building the A350-800.

It is not a surprise as Airbus is moving in this direction since some months ago investing in an improve program for the A330 (announced in Farnborough in July/2012).
Airbus could probably save at least 1 billion euros ($1.27 billion) by dropping the smallest model and concentrating its engineering resources on developing the bigger and more expensive A350-1000, said Nick Cunningham, managing partner at Agency Partners in London.
“After this move by Qatar, that’s not looking like a launch for what is an expensive program,” said Cunningham. “It would seem logical to me for them to drop the -800 and focus on the -1000. That would free up engineering capacity and take costs out.”
But the next movement is not clear; A350-800 could be cancelled, could be postponed or could be maintained. It will depend on future decision in the higher range of the family, with 787-10X and 777X by Boeing and a possible A350-1100 version, as the wide body market continue growing in quantity and in size. We shoul maintained tunned to Qatar next steps.

Based on the article “Qatar drops A350-800 for larger -900” published in FlightGlobal and “Qatar Airways Swaps Airbus Smallest A350 for Larger Variants” published in Bloomberg.

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