17 November 2013

Gulf airlines define the range and payload capabilities for new aircraft. And that converts the A350-1000 in a heavier and more capable aircraft than many other European, US and Asian carriers require.

Middle Eastern airlines are now hugely influential when it comes to defining new aircraft models

For more than a decade, Persian Gulf carriers have collectively helped shape the long-range airliner product development strategy for both Airbus and Boeing and the world's high-capacity air transport markets. With the advent of the Boeing 777X and possible Airbus A350, and A380 upgrades, their influence looks like it will only grow.

The impact of airlines such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways on performance requirements has therefore evolved into something considerably greater than the sum of their parts. As a result, even though the airlines of the region in themselves represent a sizeable chunk of both the Airbus and Boeing market forecasts, their influence extends out of all proportion around the globe. Having placed themselves at the nexus of an ever-growing network of interconnecting global routes, they have driven airframe and engine manufacturers to reach new levels of range and payload capability.

Because of the geographic location of their hubs, the Middle Eastern carriers require more range than most others. A flight to New York is not an 8 h. mission like it would be for Lufthansa or Air France, but can be a trip in excess of 14 h. against winter headwinds. Trips to the U.S. West Coast can reach 17 h., much like flights to Latin American destinations, which are increasingly linked to Middle East networks. Carriers claim they can connect any 2 markets on the globe with only one stop somewhere in the Persian Gulf region, and they need aircraft with long legs to keep that promise.

But Airbus and Boeing risk having to produce aircraft that are designed only for a part of the market, with European, U.S. and Asian airlines having to deal with heavier and more capable aircraft than they require. And the manufacturers have to avoid at all costs developing more slow-sellers like the Boeing 777-200LR or the Airbus A340-500. The second life of the A330 can partially be explained by the fact that the aircraft is all many airlines need as far as range is concerned. Lufthansa and Air France are flying the aircraft to the U.S. West Coast and Latin America. And the recently launched Boeing 787-10 is targeting that—arguably large—segment as well.

The A350-1000 is the most obvious example of Persian Gulf carriers' intervention in the design process. Emirates, notably, doubted that its engines were powerful enough and that the aircraft would have the required range. Along with Qatar Airways, the airline put significant pressure on Airbus. “Some say the A350-1000 needs to take on more thrust and weight, and I believe that to be the case,” Emirates' Clark said before the latest redesign. And Al Baker wanted “increased takeoff weight and increased range.”

The 2 got it their way. Airbus delayed the aircraft's EIS to allow time for Rolls-Royce to raise engine thrust from 93,000 to 97,000 lb. The Persian Gulf carriers' appetite for larger aircraft has also been a factor in Airbus's notable lack of interest in building the -800, the smallest A350 version.
Since the 777X will be launched largely on the strength of Persian Gulf carriers' orders, industry sources point at their massive influence in the aircraft's design.

Based on the article “Dubai 2013. Top Designers” published in Aviation Week

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