MIAMI — The first Airbus A350-1000 for British Airways (G-XWBA • MSN 326) performed its maiden flight at Toulouse earlier today, closing in on its delivery to the British flag carrier.

As things stand, there’s a race to see which UK airline receives its first A350-1000, as both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have their planes performing pre-delivery test flights.

Photo: Clément Alloing

Both carriers are set to become new A350 operators within the next few weeks, planning to use the type to replace the Boeing 747-400s. British Airways expects to phase out its last 747-400 in February 2024.

The British flag carrier will launch an all-new club world product, as their current business class offering is one of the most out-to-date and least favorites amongst passengers. The airline hopes that the new seat will change this perception.

Photo: Clément Alloing

British Airways is planning to start retrofitting the new cabin to some of its oldest aircraft this year, starting with some Boeing 777s. The airline expects to roll out the first retrofit in early 2020.

On the brand-new A350-1000s, the airline has chosen to configure its cabins with 56 Club World (business class) seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, followed by 56 World Traveler Plus (premium economy) seats right behind.

A total of 219 World Traveler (economy class) seats will occupy the rear end of the cabin. All in all, there will be 331 seats onboard in a three-class configuration.

Once British Airways receive its first A350-1000, it will be deployed on crew familiarisation flights, between London-Heathrow and Madrid, replacing the mix of Boeing 777-200/300ERs that currently operate certain flights on the route.

On October 1, 2019, the carrier will deploy the aircraft on its first long-haul flights, starting with Toronto, followed by Dubai (October 8, 2019) then Tel Aviv (December 1, 2019). From January 1, 2020, Bangalore will welcome the newest aircraft in British Airways’ fleet.

Over the coming months, British Airways will announce more A350 routes.

British Airways has 18 Airbus A350-1000s on order, with 18 options, all of which are set to be delivered by the end of 2022.

British Airways also ordered 18 Boeing 777-9Xs, with 18 options in March 2019, with the first example set to be delivered in 2022.