Airbus is seeking support from airlines for a new 400-seat version of the A350, which would be called A350-8000, as competition with Boeing on the world’s largest twin-engined jets escalates.
Image copyright: Airbus
After talking about the possibility of a new member for the A350 family, Airbus has started a pre-marketing phase to respond to an upgrade in the Boeing 777 program.
Because Boeing has had a big success with its 406-seat 777-9, Airbus is aiming to respond with a design that could satisfy the performance needed for extreme Gulf conditions.
John Leahy, the Airbus sales chief, said it would have similar range and capacity as the Boeing competitors, but lower seat-mile costs. He added that they’re showing it to airlines right now.
The decision to develop this new version of the A350 marks a shift in priority after oil prices collapsed. The plan for Airbus was to develop an upgraded version of the A380.
The decision whether to develop this 400-seat A350 will be taken only if British Airways and Singapore Airlines order the jet. Singapore took delivery of its first A350-900 this month nad has been considering the 777-9 for a long time.
This new version would use a more powerful version of the Trent XWB used on the A350-1000, supposed to have just over 100,000 pounds of thrust. Airbus believes this version would compete well with the heavier 777X. An expert estimated the upgrade cost for the engines to be around half a billion dollars, requiring a bigger fan and new materials.
The new jet would have a boosted MTOW, just over 319 tones, compared to the 308 tonnes MTOW of the A350-1000. It would have to sacrifice a bit of the 8,000NM range of the -1000 version.
Airbus has said it will provide updates on the project at the Farnborough Airshow in July.