TOULOUSE — Qatar Airways has today received the first Airbus A350-1000 as the launch customer of the largest variant of the A350 family of aircraft.
The ceremony took place at the Airbus University, where senior executives of both the airline and the manufacturer came together to celebrate yet another milestone for the A350 program.
— Qatar Airways (@qatarairways) February 20, 2018
“Qatar Airways always demands the very best for its customers, so it is right that we are the first airline in the world to fly the Airbus A350-1000,” said Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker.
“This remarkable state-of-the-art aircraft will become a firm part of Qatar Airways fleet and will keep us ahead of the curve, allowing us to continue to offer our passengers outstanding levels of comfort and service”.
Chris Cholerton, Rolls-Royce President – Civil Aerospace, also stated that “We are very proud to have worked with Qatar Airways and Airbus to deliver engines for this latest version of the A350 XWB family. This delivery marks another significant day in our partnership with the airline and the manufacturer as the new aircraft is powered by the most powerful engine ever developed for an Airbus aircraft, the Trent XWB-97.”
From the manufacturer’s side, Fabrice Brégier, said “It is a huge pride for us to deliver the very first A350-1000 to our launch customer Qatar Airways. Bringing major advantages in fuel and cost efficiency along with unmatched passenger comfort, the A350-1000 is the ideal aircraft to showcase Qatar Airways’ legendary customer service. With its greater capacity compared to the A350-900, the newest widebody will play a major role on the carrier’s busiest long-haul routes and will contribute to strengthening their position at the forefront of the aviation industry.”
Current Status of the A350 Program
The A350-1000 competes directly with the Boeing 777-300(ER), for now, but will have the market to itself when the 777-9 arrives. Critics have argued that the program hasn’t been a commercial success yet and that it is still to make some ground.
When asked about whether Airbus is going to pursue the A350-800 program, they responded by using the A330-900neo as this variant per se. The A330-900neo has 40 seats less than the A350-900 so using the A330neo program is a good way to build up to the A350 program in terms of its commonality and other aspects in making consistency the key to Airbus’ success.
Airbus is also looking into ramping up their A350 production. When asked about the delays coming from third party suppliers, they commented that through the “Cabin Get Well” program, they are working with suppliers to make sure that all parts are arriving in Toulouse without any faults having to be reported before assembly.
Airways also asked Airbus about whether the A350-2000 variant, which would supposedly be the competitor to the Boeing 777-9X is to still be considered. Marisa Lucas-Ugena, Airbus’ Head of A350XWB Family Marketing responded, “We are not afraid.”
She hinted that the family may not need a -2000 variant as she is confident that customers would be more inclined to go with the -1000 for the cheaper operating costs. Furthermore, the A350-1000 is 35 tons lighter than the 777-9X is going to be as well as the -1000 having the range, efficiency and other capabilities that have remained consistent throughout all programmes.
The Big Three’s Take
As Fabrice Bregier gave his final official speech as CEO of Airbus, he expressed how proud he was about launching the A350-1000 for commercial service before he retired. For a partnership that is now in its 20th year, Bregier emphasized that fact and thanked Qatar Airways for their continued commitment to Airbus products by having A320neos, A350s, and A380s within their fleet.
After the A350-1000 press briefing, Mr. Akbar Al Baker was joined by Airbus’ Fabrice Bregier and Rolls Royce’s Chris Cholerton.
Al Baker believes that the A350-1000 is key to connecting the globe and that it complements the -900 very well. Average fleet age for Qatar is at around five years and purchasing these aircraft is also key to keeping the age down and to keep operations safe.
“Qatar Airways continues to lead the way by leading in innovation and I am proud to be the first customer to receive this new variant”, Al Baker added.
“You do not become the best by standing still,” is his key motto and that by working with Airbus and suppliers, they can become the best airline they can be. Mr. Al Baker will be launching the A350-1000 on its London-Heathrow route in the next few weeks.
He also thanked Bregier for the leadership at Airbus as well as the “perseverance” on the pressure applied to him catering to Qatar Airways’ needs. This event is Bregier’s final official engagement before new leadership replaces him this year.
In terms of the QSuite delays, he says it is down to “the difficulty of installation and that it is complex and was done in record time”.
Rolls Royce’ Chris Cholerton believes that the A350-1000 will provide the cutting edge that the carrier also requires. The XWB engines have completed over 1.3 million flight hours, which is showing how reliable it is, especially with their 99.9% dispatch reliability rate. Qatar Airways counts for a quarter of that total.
Cholerton added that as someone who was a project manager along the A350 engine program, he is proud to be giving company engines to the first A350-1000. He says he values his relationship with Qatar Airways.
Airbus has hit yet again another milestone for the aviation industry. With Qatar Airways being the launch customer of this aircraft, it will show added confidence in the Middle Eastern market. But for a carrier with a lot of prestige, it could be reflected onto other prospective customers who are considering an order.
It will be interesting to see when the aircraft has been in the air whether the A350-1000 will take off in orders going into airshows. With Farnborough coming up this year, Airbus will be looking to continue their domination of the long-haul market and will ultimately be aiming to make the -1000 just as much of a success as its little sister, the A350-900.