Airbus’ big twin

Airbus’ big twin

British Airways is one of two UK carriers introducing the A350-1000 to service. Its first aircraft, G-XWBA (msn 326), is seen here departing Toulouse on a test flight prior to delivery. F Lancelot/Airbus

Two UK airlines are about to put Airbus’ largest twin-jet airliner, the A350-1000, into service on long-haul routes as the industry’s changeover to newer and more efficient aircraft continues.

British Airways is scheduled to start flying its first A350-1000 from Heathrow to Dubai from September 2, operating flights BA107 (outbound) and BA106 (inbound). A week later, on September 10, Virgin Atlantic is due to put its initial A350-1000 into operation on one of the airline’s rotations from Heathrow to New York JFK.

BA put its first A350-1041, G-XWBA (msn 326), into use on short-haul rotations including Heathrow–Madrid from early August to build crew hours ahead of deployment on long-haul routes. The airline will receive 18 A350-1000s over the next three years. As well as Dubai, BA will also fly the type to Toronto from October 1, Tel Aviv from December 1 and Bangalore from January 1, 2020.

BA’s A350-1000s feature the airline’s newly launched Club Suite business class cabin, which features flatbed seats, aisle access for all seats, a privacy door and what the airline calls, “a new personalised service and a restaurant-style dining experience”.

Virgin Atlantic’s initial A350- 1041 is G-VLUX (msn 274), named Red Velvet. The carrier has ordered 12 A350-1000s configured with 335 seats (44 Upper Class, 56 premium economy and 235 economy).

The Upper Class section of the cabin (Virgin Atlantic’s name for business class) also offers lie-flat seats. BA’s jets are configured with 331 seats comprising 56 in Club Suite, 56 in World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and 219 in World Traveller (economy).

The A350-1000’s arrival at BA and Virgin represents the latest stage in ongoing fleet renewal programmes at the airlines that began earlier this decade. In BA service, the A350-1000s join A380s, 787s and more 777-300ERs in replacing Boeing 747-436s. At Virgin, the A350-1000s join 787-9s and A330s in replacing 747-400s and A340-600s. Virgin’s remaining A340-600s will be withdrawn from use by the end of this year and its last 747-400s are planned to leave service in 2021. Mark Broadbent

Air France axes the A380

Flying away: Air France is planning to phase out the A380 by 2022. Airbus

The twin-jet tide continues to sweep through the industry at the expense of the quad-jets, after Air France announced it is to phase out its entire Airbus A380 fleet within three years.

Reports late last year claimed the carrier was planning to trim its A380 fleet, and when AIR International asked the airline for comment at the time it would only say it was studying the future size of its super jumbo fleet. However, the airline recently confirmed its management has now signed off a plan to withdraw the type completely from service by 2022.

Air France said: “The current competitive environment limits the markets in which the A380 can profitably operate. With four engines, the A380 consumes 20–25% more fuel per seat than new generation long-haul aircraft, and therefore emits more carbon dioxide. Increasing aircraft maintenance costs, as well as necessary cabin refurbishments to meet customer expectations, reduce the economic attractiveness of Air France’s A380s even further.

Keeping this aircraft in the fleet would involve significant costs.”

Air France-KLM said it is studying options to replace the A380s “with new generation aircraft currently on the market”, which clearly opens a sales opportunity for Boeing and Airbus’ respective high-capacity long-range twin jets. The contest will be closely fought, as Air France already operates both 777-300ERs and A350-900s. Might Air France go for more Triple Sevens, A350s or A330neos, or even a mix? Air France is just the latest airline to axe the A380. Qatar Airways intends to remove its six aircraft from service by 2024. Lufthansa announced plans earlier this year to cut its fleet from 14 to eight aircraft by the mid-2020s. Air France’s decision to dump the A380, which means the type will only log 13 years’ service with the carrier, is further evidence of the commercial aircraft market’s move from the large quad-jets to more efficient twin-jet airliners. This structural shift was key in Airbus’ decision earlier this year to shut down the A380 production line in 2021. Mark Broadbent

Air cargo forecast

Boeing predicts greater demand for medium-sized freighter aircraft such as 777s, of which China Airlines has signed a commitment for six. Boeing

Boeing’s latest Commercial Market Outlook (CMO) painted a positive picture about the health of the air cargo market. The CMO said the freighter aircraft market grew by 21% between 2013 and 2018.

The number of ‘standard body’ freighter aircraft such as 737s increased from 526 to 685 in those five years, with the number of medium widebody freighters rising from 472 to 570 and the number of large freighters increasing from 526 to 686.

In its CMO, Boeing predicts the growth trend will continue long term. It forecasts that 2,820 new freighters will join the market from now to 2038, comprising 1,040 new aircraft and 1,780 conversions. The overall freighter fleet will increase by more than half over those 20 years, Boeing predicts, from 1,970 new aircraft in 2018 to 3,400 by 2038.

The company believes the share of the market held by large freighters (747 class) will decline from 29% to 25%, with the medium freighters such as the 777 increasing their share of the market from 32% to 35% and standard body aircraft increasing their share from 38% to 40%.

The CMO said that despite the increased underfloor cargo capacity of passenger airliners such as the 777-300ER, this doesn’t necessarily mean more cargo is being carried this way. The report said dedicated main-deck freighters, whether purpose-built or conversions, “are particularly well suited for transporting high-value goods because they provide highly controlled transport, direct routing, reliability and unique capacity considerations” which provide “better service to shippers”.

Boeing says 90% of all air cargo is transported on main-deck freighter aircraft, so it says these dedicated aircraft will remain essential for that network to be fast, reliable and effective, especially as e-commerce and digital drive a greater need for on-demand provision of goods and services. Mark Broadbent

A new jet for new connections

Aer Lingus A321-253NX EI-LRA (msn 8887) is the first of eight A321LRs for the Irish carrier. Airbus

Aer Lingus has received its first A321LR (Long-Range) aircraft.

The jet, A321-253NX EI-LRA (msn 8887), is leased by the Irish airline from the Air Lease Corporation and will be followed by a further seven A321LRs. The A321LRs are powered by CFM International LEAP-1A engines and configured in a twoclass layout with 16 business and 168 economy seats.

With a range of up to 4,000 nautical miles (7,408km) Airbus says the A321LR is, “the unrivalled long-range route opener, featuring true transatlantic capability and premium wide-body comfort in a single-aisle aircraft cabin”.

In addition to the eight A321LRs, Aer Lingus will also receive six examples of the A321XLR, the even longer range subvariant Airbus launched earlier this summer. The A321XLR offers 4,700 nautical miles (8,400km) range, making it the longest-range single aisle narrowbody airliner. Aer Lingus is due to receive its first A321XLR in 2023.

Together, the 14 long-range single aisle jets will bring greater efficiency to the airline’s operations and enable it to open new transatlantic routes from Dublin to the US East Coast, replacing the carrier’s remaining Boeing 757s and joining its 13 A330s. The first, on August 2, is to Hartford, with Aer Lingus also planning to use the new jets to Boston from October 27 and on some of its rotations to Washington-Dulles and Philadelphia. It plans to put the aircraft on its New York Newark route in 2020. Mark Broadbent

Omani 747SP

Royal Flight of Oman Boeing 747SP-27 A4O-SO (c/n 21785) photographed at London Stansted Airport in July. This aircraft, built in 1979, has served in the VIP transport role since 1984 after briefly being operated by Braniff. Richard Vandervoord

African A320neo

Air Seychelles has welcomed its initial A320neo, S7-VEV (msn 8972), named ‘Veuve’ after a critically endangered bird, on lease from CDB Aviation. The airline is the first African carrier to operate the A320neo and the S7-VEV is the first new aircraft to enter service with the carrier since a Boeing 767-300 delivered 18 years ago. Airbus

Air Antwerp Fokker 50

Air Antwerp is a start-up Belgian airline, co-owned by KLM and CityJet, which plans to launch services in the autumn previously operated by VLM Airlines using Fokker 50 OO-VLS (c/n 20109). Wout Goossens

INNUMBERS

3PERCENT AIR TRAVEL GROWTH After years of continued growth in global air traffic, flights, passengers and connections, a slight slowdown is apparent according to the latest Global Aviation Monitor (GAM) issued by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt or DLR). According to the GAM, which covers 3,500 airports and 850 airlines worldwide, passenger aircraft movements worldwide increased by only 1.5% in June. The number of aircraft movements in Asia-Pacific is only growing by 2–3% compared with 2018, it says. North America likewise is only seeing air traffic growth rates of between 2% and 3%, while the European market has slipped from 5% to just 1.2%. The DLR study predicts continued modest growth in flight movements of between 1% and 2% at the European and global level for the third quarter of 2019. The GAM is published quarterly by the DLR Institute of Air Transport and Airport Research. Mark Broadbent

4FOURTH C919 FLIES The fourth COMAC C919 flight test aircraft, B-001E (c/n 104), undertook its first test flight on August 1 from Shanghai Pudong International Airport. During its 85-minute maiden flight, COMAC said the aircraft completeda number of test points and initial control inspections of various aircraft systems. The aircraft will be used mainly for avionics, takeoff /landing performance, automatic flight system and natural icing tests. COMAC said test activities on the three other C919 test aircraft, which have carried out flight tests at Yanliang, Dongying and Nanchang, along with static and other ground verification tests,are in steady progress, and the development of [the] C919 will enter the phase of high-density, highdifficulty and high-risk flight testsMark Broadbent

37 EMBRAERS IN 2019 SO FAR Embraer delivered 26 airliners during the second quarter of the year (22 E175s, one E190, two E195s and one E190-E2), taking its total for commercial aircraft deliveries for the year to 37 aircraft (the other 11 aircraft are ten E175s and one E190-E2). The manufacturers total firm orders backlog for the E-Jets at the end of Q2 was 363 jets (194 E175s, six E190s, one E195, 38 E190-E2s and 124 E195-E2s). Mark Broadbent

4AIRLINE JOINT VENTURE The US Transportation Department has tentatively approved the July 2018 request by Delta Air Lines, Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic to launch an expanded joint venture (JV) for their services between the United States and Europe. The expanded JV between the four airlines would replace two previously approved arrangements in the US–UK and UScontinental Europe markets. The partnership intends to off er increased capacity and frequent flyer cooperation, as well as new benefits such as more options on European flights. The new JV is another sign of the increased cooperation between diff erent airliners through commercial partnerships, with Qantas and American Airlines also recently gaining approval for a transpacific JV (see p.97). Mark Broadbent

4AIRLINE JOINT VENTURE The US Transportation Department has tentatively approved the July 2018 request by Delta Air Lines, Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic to launch an expanded joint venture (JV) for their services between the United States and Europe. The expanded JV between the four airlines would replace two previously approved arrangements in the US–UK and UScontinental Europe markets. The partnership intends to off er increased capacity and frequent flyer cooperation, as well as new benefits such as more options on European flights. The new JV is another sign of the increased cooperation between diff erent airliners through commercial partnerships, with Qantas and American Airlines also recently gaining approval for a transpacific JV (see p.97). Mark Broadbent

Data covers orders announced July 9-August 5, 2019. Key: MOU – Memorandum of Understanding. Compiled by Mark Broadbent

INBRIEF

Twin jet switch

Air France and KLM are to swap their remaining firm Boeing 787-9 and Airbus A350-900 orders to simplify operations. Six 787-9s ordered for Air France will transfer to KLM, taking the Dutch carrier’s 787 fleet to 27 aircraft. No A350s will serve with the Dutch carrier, with the seven A350-900s previously ordered for KLM set to switch to Air France, which, together with the French airline’s existing firm orders for the type, will mean the carrier will operate 28 A350-900s. Mark Broadbent

Air France orders A220

At the same time as axing the A380, Air France unveiled a memorandum of understanding to order 60 A220-300s. The airline’s agreement also comprises 30 purchase options and 30 acquisition rights for the type. Air France said: “These decisions reflect the Group’s focus on simplification. Making the fleet more competitive, by continuing its transformation with more modern, high-performance aircraft with a significantly reduced environmental footprint is key to achieving leading industry margins.” Air France’s first A220-300 will be delivered in September 2021. The A220- 300s will initially be used to replace the carrier’s 33 A319s and 18 A318s. Mark Broadbent

Icelandair reviews fleet plans

Icelandair is reviewing its long-term fleet strategy, with the airline saying three scenarios are under consideration. The first is to maintain the current fleet strategy, which calls for the continued operation of its Boeing 757s to 2025 alongside the introduction of the 737 MAX. (The carrier received five examples before it was grounded.) The second option is to introduce more new equipment, which might possibly include the introduction of the Airbus A321neo alongside the 737. The third option is to phase out the 757s more quickly and take all Boeing aircraft out of operation, with the fleet composed entirely of Airbus aircraft. Icelandair said it would conclude the review during the third quarter. Mark Broadbent

Regional merger cleared

A proposed merger between Ireland-based CityJet and Air Nostrum of Spain has won European Commission (EC) approval. The EC said there are no concerns because the companies, “have moderate market shares, a sufficient number of competitors remains in the market and the barriers to entry are low”. The merger would create Europe’s largest regional airline group, with a combined fleet of almost 100 aircraft. Air Nostrum is best known as a franchise partner for Iberia, but also provides wet-lease services for other carriers, and CityJet operates services under wet-lease. The carriers have highly complementary fleets, both operating Bombardier regional jets. Air Nostrum’s fleet includes 32 CRJs and CityJet’s fleet includes 22 CRJ900s acquired specifically for wet lease services. Mark Broadbent