MIAMI — Airbus has begun their Middle-East and Asia-Pacific demonstration tour for the A350-1000. The three-week journey will show off the aircraft type, especially after it has completed its test flight campaign resulting in FAA and EASA certification.
The tour also comes ahead of the first delivery of the type to launch customer, Qatar Airways.
The aircraft to be operated on the tour is MSN065, one of the testbed aircraft, with a fully functional cabin, offering 40 Business Class, 36 Economy Plus, as well as 219 Comfort Economy seats. Such flights across the tour will be taken out by the Airbus test crews.
Concerning of the journey, the aircraft will travel over 30,000 nautical miles to 12 different destinations in the Middle East and Asia.
The tour will start in Doha for Qatar Airways followed by hops between Muscat, Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei, Hanoi, Singapore, Bangkok, Sydney, Auckland, Tokyo, and Manila.
Regarding of the Singapore stop, the aircraft will rest there for a few days while it will be on display to those at the Singapore Airshow 2018. As of writing, the A350-1000 has already touched down in Doha.
— Airbus (@Airbus) January 26, 2018
The presence at the Singapore Airshow with the -1000 could potentially see some orders on the way at the show, especially with competitors Boeing bringing vast chunks of their commercial and military displays to the airshow.
So the Singapore Airshow could be a critical determining factor in the manufacturer’s 2018 success before Farnborough in the summer.
With the -1000 receiving 169 unit orders from 11 different customers, they will be using both Singapore and Farnborough as a way of boosting the development of the program much further.
Within this tour, Airbus will be advertising why the -1000 variant is a good fit for existing customers who have bought previous aircraft types.
The A350-1000 boasts 95% commonality on systems part numbers and Same Type Rating. On top of such commonality, the -1000 can fit 40 more seats onto it than its smaller sister, the A350-900, which for customers who want to travel far and carry more passengers, the -1000 could be seen as a suitable player for them in the market.
What is Airbus aiming for in the Middle East and Asia?
This tour was specially crafted by Airbus to target the forecasted demand out of this region of the world.
In the manufacturer’s 2017 forecast, they predicted that there would be demand for 16,810 commercial aircraft in both regions between 2017 and 2036. So, it comes as no surprise that they are touring this particular region as it accounts for 49% of the total aircraft forecasted.
It is indeed a market that Airbus wants to grab a more significant share of going into the next 10-20 years. With air travel experiencing over 60% growth over the past decade, it shows that the demand for new aircraft will always be needed, not just in the growth of the sector, but also in fleet ages of some airlines.
Certain carriers choose to have a young average age fleet, like Emirates where their average age is around 5.6 years amongst their 200+ aircraft in the fleet.
Airbus also believe that the Asia-Pacific market will lead world traffic by 2036 due to a forecasted three-fold increase in total traffic serving the region. Growth is expected to emerge between 6.7% in the Middle East and 5.6% in the Asian-Pacific market respectively.
Is The Middle East Too Saturated for Growth?
Even with the low-cost carrier argument of needing smaller aircraft than the A350XWB program, stats show that LCC seat capacity in the Asia-Pacific market has grown by 25% and that the distance travelled has increased by 21% since 2002 from 200km to 1,150km in 2016.
It will be argued that in this result, due to the supposed saturation of the Middle Eastern market, there is huge room for growth in Asia. With certain competitors to Emirates complaining about such saturation of air traffic, they look amongst the many to struggle in terms of price wars and ultimately filling their aircraft up.
However, in Airbus’ forecasts, they believe that the A350XWB program should thrive in the Middle East due to many carriers investing in bigger aircraft like that because of the distance it can go and also the high quantities of passengers it can carry every flight. This was exactly the reason why Emirates made yet another commitment to the A380 program, bringing their total count of the type to 175.
They may not even be saturated due to new markets in the region opening up. Due to sanctions on Iran being lifted, Iranian carriers and governments will be looking to kickstart their economy in air travel and order larger aircraft and potentially greater quantities of units. Saturation may not be fully there yet, but as Iran establishes itself in the Middle East, it could heighten the chances of it.
This A350-1000 demonstration tour could be a very successful one. With an active airshow in the middle of the three-week adventure, bringing home some orders back to Toulouse could be proven to be very beneficial going into the summer and also presenting it to prospective customers.
With the -1000 deliveries beginning this year, it will be interesting to see what the 11 current customers will think of the aircraft and whether it can gain just as higher successes as their rivals in the market.