Airbus has ruled out stretching the A350 for the time being, saying there is no clear demand yet for a higher-capacity variant of the twin-jet. Chief Operating Officer and President Airbus Commercial Aircraft Fabrice Brégier confirmed in a briefing on Airbus’ 2017 orders and deliveries the company had investigated the concept, dubbed the A350-2000, but concluded there was currently no business case, due to weak demand for larger-capacity twin-jets. Brégier said: “We studied a stretch of the A350-1000, but we have to be consistent. We cannot say that the market for very big aircraft is, right now, difficult and [then] launch the A350-2000.”
Of the 854 orders for A350s booked to January 30, 2018, 169 were for the 366-seat A350-1000, the highestcapacity variant, compared to 677 for the 325-seat A350-900 (the other six were for the A350-800). Airbus’ 2017 orders and deliveries data showed only one order, from an undisclosed customer, was received for the A350-1000 last year. United Airlines also switched its A350 order in 2017 from the A350-1000 to the A350-900.
Brégier said Airbus could address the higher-capacity portion of the market by enhancing the A350- 900 and A350-1000. However, noting what he called the “huge opportunity” of a future replacement cycle for 777-300ERs, he added: “Probably, when there is a new generation of engines, we will be able to question whether we can stretch again. We’ve studied it and it is possible.”
A more immediate focus is ramping up production. Airbus delivered 78 A350-900s in 2017. The company’s deliveries data reveals fluctuations in A350 deliveries month to month: for example, eight in October were followed by 11 in November before a drop back to nine in December and then four in January 2018. Airbus’ target is to achieve a consistent rate of ten per month by the end of 2018. The first customer A350-1000 for launch operator Qatar Airways, A7- ANA msn 88, was due for handover in February. Mark Broadbent