TOULOUSE – There was glorious weather in the heart of Airbus this week as Japan Airlines received the first of 31 Airbus A350XWBs at the Airbus Delivery Center in Toulouse.

This milestone represents a new era for the carrier and the manufacture, especially with this being the first direct order from the Japanese carrier to Airbus and the first Airbus-produced aircraft for the carrier before the days of Japan Air Systems.

Photo: Ryan Taylor

The direct order itself was made back in 2013, with the airline even back then emphasizing what sort of new relationship this is. The order consists of 18 -900s and 13 -1000s, with the -900s offering 369 seats in a three-class configuration.

Commenting on the delivery was Christian Scherer, CCO of Airbus, who was keen to produce a strong approach into the role he has just taken on.

“This airplane is 25% more fuel efficient. I want to say thank you to Japan Airlines for telling us ourselves how good our airplane is”.

“The main attributes of the domestic version are reduced takeoff weight at 217t. By reducing the weight and thrust, you reduce stress on the aircraft and can fly more cycles. This means that you can reduce the maintenance costs that come with this version of the aircraft”.

Photo: Ryan Taylor

“The decision over deployment of the aircraft (-900 & -1000s from 2023) is a privilege to Japan Airlines”.

Japan Airlines’ Chairman Yoshiharu Ueki was very impressed with the attention to detail taken out by Airbus to ensure a brand-new customer relationship.

He mentioned that there is no exact date on when the other aircraft will be received. First flight from Haneda to Fukuoka will occur on September 1, with the aircraft running domestic routes initially before heading into the international market. When he saw the A350 in person, he said he knew he “made the right choice”.

“The A350 will replace the Boeing 777. We asked Airbus to modify the aircraft so then we can keep using it in this (domestic) way”.

“If you look at the Airbus programs, there is an exceptional philosophy behind the concept (Of Airbus), and that is why I made this decision for ordering this aircraft”.

The configuration of the aircraft is set in a three-class setup offering 12 seats in First Class in a 2-2-2 configuration, 94 seats in Business in a 2-4-2 configuration, as well as 263 seats in Economy offering a 3-3-3 setup.

The delivery flight itself took off from Toulouse at 1245 local time on June 13 as JL8102, inbound to Tokyo Haneda. The Airbus A350-900 is registered as JA01XJ.

All-in-all, this is a significant achievement, not just for Japan Airlines, but also for Airbus.

As the manufacturer begins to add more customers to its operations, it will no doubt make this aircraft a continued contender, even with the different variants it offers and may offer down the line.

For Japan Airlines, this gives the carrier to carry on with its fleet renewal, but also market and experiment with new routes it may not have tried previously, and with that could generate the success it needs to generate more revenues, more passenger numbers and further connectivity across the globe.

This event could be seen as a tie-in for the Paris Air Show next week, with Airbus wanting to score as many orders as possible, especially with the disadvantage that Boeing currently has in the market with short-haul operations like the 737MAX.

Even then, the wide-body market is also still to play for. With the A350 on eyes with other carriers such as Qantas, only time will tell before we see more orders pertinent to that section of the market.

But, as another customer gets to enjoy the perks of the A350, we now prepare for the Paris Air Show. Make sure to stay tuned to Airways as we provide coverage on the ground and globally!