[THE INVESTOR] With increasing air traffic, passengers continue to demand spacious and cozy flights, while airlines seek profitable planes.
The newest member of Airbus’ leading jetliner, the A350-1000, meets all those requirements and is the “perfect fit” for mega cities like Seoul, according to Airbus.
Airbus Marketing Director Francois Obe. Airbus
“Forecasts show about 40 percent of the world’s air traffic will come from Asia in the next 20 years. In that sense, our latest A350 model is the product with the best capacity which is adapted to the evolving market,” Airbus Marketing Director Francois Obe told The Korea Herald.
He was in Seoul as part of Airbus’ three-week demonstration tour to Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.
The European aircraft manufacturer unveiled the A350-1000 in Seoul on Jan. 30, the largest version of the extra wide body (XWB) family, which was launched to compete with Boeing’s 777s in the up to 400-seat market. The XWB series includes the A350-800, A350-900 and A350-1000.
One notable feature is a longer body than its predecessor, the A350-900, enabling it to fit 40 additional seats in both business class and economy. Other new specifications include an aluminum-based lighter body equipped with a modified wing trailing edge, six-wheel main landing gears and more powerful Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 engines.
According to Obe, the new A350 XWB model will be favored in the Asia-Pacific region, including Korea.
In Korea, Asiana Airlines, which has been operating the earlier A350-900, has already ordered 10 of the A350-1000, as part of a wider fleet reorganization.
“Over the 10 years, the traffic internationally almost doubled. Korea, one of the most dynamic markets in the world, already has many traveling to North America and Europe, and airliners need more profitable aircrafts considering its size and speed,” Obe said.
The new model can travel a maximum of 14,800 kilometers, which is enough to fly passengers from Seoul to North America or any European country without stopovers.
“As of now, 14 major airlines have ordered 287 A350 XWB aircraft,” he said, adding that the number is one-third of the total 852 orders Airbus has secured around the world.
Regarding industry watchers’ view that the aircraft trend is shifting toward smaller and slimmer jetliners, Obe said Dubai carrier Emirates’ US$16 billion deal for an additional 36 A380s proves that it is “still a profitable business.”
“Emirates’ commitment to the A380 program is now at 178 aircraft, worth over US$60 billion,” Obe said, adding that he is convinced that larger aircraft still have a future, because airlines will need bigger planes as demand for air travel grows.
In apparent competition with its American rival Boeing, Airbus is set to release smaller planes, with the upcoming delivery of the A330neo aircraft slated for this summer to Portugal’s TAP airline, a launch customer.
The battle between Airbus and Boeing is as fierce as ever. Record production and sales have been strengthening each year, despite new entrants from China, Russia and Canada.
According to Airbus, it secured 1,109 aircraft orders in 2017, nearly 200 more than Boeing.
Boeing, however, led in the number of airplanes delivered with 763 aircraft, beating its own 2015 record by one. Airbus reached a new record of 718 last year.
“History tells it. It has shown, and will show what (the) market needs and which aircraft are efficient,” said Obe.
By Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org)