05 June 2013

A350-1000 needed earlier and with higher rate than previously planned. But it is a bit small.

News from EADS that it is beginning to consider another Airbus A350 assembly line, or ramping up production more quickly than currently planned, to accommodate increasing demand for the A350-1000 validates a desire expressed months ago by John Leahy, COO of Customers for Airbus, that he could see more -1000s if he had the capacity to build them.

Delivery slots for the A350 are essentially sold out to 2020. Orders for the -1000 stalled in part because of this, in part because Airbus tweaked the design, in part because Boeing engaged in an effective campaign to cast doubt over the model and in part because Tim Clark of Emirates Airlines and Akbar Al-Baker of Qatar Airways can’t resist negotiating in the press to pressure Airbus to do more.

Leeham News believe the A350-1000, at 350 passengers, is a bit small. It compares with the 365 passengers in the Boeing 777-300ER. “We felt from the start that Airbus should have had at least 30 more passengers.” But the A350-1000 threatens the -300ER. Airbus claims the -1000 will have 25% lower trip costs; even Boeing’s own presentations grant the -1000 about 20% lower trip costs.

With Boeing planning a 350-passenger 777-8X and a 406 passenger 777-9X, “the need for a larger A350-1100 becomes acute” identifies Leeham News. Boeing has had the monopoly with the 777-300ER, which will be broken by the -1000. The 9X will retain a monopoly; Airbus, to be fully competitive, needs to match this size.

This will mean a new wing and larger engines, of course, no small investment. There is already a huge gap between the A350-1000 and the A380. The 777-9X, which will be more efficient than the 747-8 (and which will kill the dying 748), will eat into the A380 demand. So will an A350-1100, but better to do so from within than to see your competitor take the sales.

Based on the article “Assessing the A350 program” published by Leeham News

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