As Airbus begins assembly of its largest twinjet to date, the A350-1000, it faces a crucial decision about whether to add an even bigger version to its armoury to enable it to go head to head with the Boeing 777-9X.
Toulouse’s strategy in the “big-twin” sector is just one of the potentially life-changing decisions it is facing.
Official details about “A350-1100” is sketchy as is any official clarity on where Airbus is in its decision-making processes and a decision to launch could be linked to the “A380neo” decision.
Source: France Bleu
Although Airbus is vague about whether it will stretch the A350, others (Qatar Airways CEO and Boeing) are more certain about the likelihood of such a development.
Rob Morris, head of Flightglobal’s consultancy arm Ascend, believed the “A350-1100 could be an elegant way to plug the gap” in the Airbus product line between 350 and 550 seats.
But Airbus might want to see the -1000 to fly, and maybe even the -9X, to have an idea of their relative weight and performance, he said.
“In real airline layouts, the A350-1000 will likely have 330-340 seats and the 777-9 370-400, giving it around 30-50 more seats,” said Morris.
“Yet, the A350-1000, being an all-new design, may well be 30t lighter. So it’s entirely possible the two aircraft will be very close on seat-mile costs.”
Source: Marina Lystseva
Morris pointed out that Cathay Pacific has ordered both types, illustrating that the two types are complementary “and not all airlines or routes will need an aircraft of higher capacity than the 777-300ER”.
However he added that if the 777-9X starts “cleaning up, then an A350-1100 could be Airbus’ reaction. But clearly it will be a challenge to deliver the ‘-1100’ with sufficient range to challenge the -9 on range with a further A350 stretch.”
“So it must be careful not to end up with a compromised design that appears to offer a 350-400 seat solution but actually doesn’t deliver the payload/range performance airlines would require.”
Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at Teal Group, believes it is only worth Airbus attempting an A350 stretch if “they can do a derivative that gets most of the way to the 777-9X level.”
“I doubt they can, but it largely depends on Rolls-Royce. Or, if the Rolls exclusivity agreement on the -1000 doesn't apply to a growth version, then it depends on the engine guys in general.”
Based on the article “The crucial decisions facing Airbus over A350 and A380” published in FlightGlobal.