Airbus says it will bring the largest variant of its A350 family to Australia and New Zealand as part of a 30,000nm demonstration tour across the Asia-Pacific and Middle East.
The A350-1000, MSN065 F-WLXV, began its 12-city trip on January 26 (European time), with its first destination after departing from Toulouse the Qatari capital Doha. It has since visited Muscat and Hong Kong. Upcoming cities include Bangkok, Hanoi and Taipei.
The aircraft, operated by Airbus flight test crews, is due to reach Sydney following its appearance at the Singapore Airshow, where it will be on static display from February 6 to 8, before heading across the Tasman to Auckland.
The cabin of MSN065, one of three A350-1000 test aircraft, is configured with a full passenger cabin comprising 40 business, 36 economy plus and 219 economy seats.
Airbus said the tour was to “demonstrate the aircraft’s exclusive features to airlines”.
The company has received 169 orders for the A350-1000 from 11 customers. The aircraft received certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in November 2017.
The launch customer is Qatar Airways, which was expected to have picked up its first A350-1000 in late December 2017. However, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al-Baker said in a statement welcoming the MSN065 to Doha the new revised timetable was for the first aircraft to arrive in February.
“The delivery of the world’s first commercial A350-1000 next month is highly-anticipated by Qatar Airways passengers and employees,” Al Baker said.
“Our expert delivery staff have been working in partnership with Airbus to ensure a prompt entry into service so we can deliver outstanding levels of comfort, thanks to the A350-1000’s spacious cabins and advanced technology.”
Media reports indicated first delivery has been pushed back to mid-February due to delays with the installation of the airline’s new QSuites business class seats.
The innovative new seat design, which is already flying on a number of Qatar’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, includes the option to have a set of four seats face each other so those travelling in a group can conduct meetings, socialise or share a meal together, while still providing the now-standard flatbed and direct aisle access for every passenger in business class.
Airbus chief operating officer Fabrice Brégier said: “At Airbus we look forward to delivering the world’s first A350-1000 to Qatar Airways in the coming weeks.”
Other airlines that have ordered the A350-100 that serve Australia include British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, Japan Airlines, LATAM Airlines Group and Asiana Airlines.
The A350-1000 is 73.78m in length, 6.98m longer than the A350-900, and is designed to fly 7,950nm carrying 366 passengers, 41 more passengers than the A350-900 which is already flying with a number of airlines.
The company has said previously that the A350-1000 had 95 per cent common systems part numbers as the A350-900, as well as the same type rating. Apart from being longer than the A350-900, the A350-1000 also has a modified wing trailing-edge, new six-wheel main landing gears and more powerful Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 engines.
No airline in Oceania has ordered the A350, although the widebody twin is an increasingly common sight at local airports thanks to services operated by Cathay Pacific (Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth), China Airlines (Sydney), Qatar Airways (Adelaide), Singapore Airlines (Brisbane and Melbourne) and Thai Airways (Melbourne).
In August 2014, Airbus brought A350-900 test aircraft MSN5 to Auckland, Perth and Sydney in this part of the world as part of its route proving program, the final phase of the aircraft’s type certification testing.