Air­bus to de­cide soon if mar­ket needs new A350 vari­ant

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

DUBAI: Air­bus is study­ing whether there is de­mand for a larger mem­ber of its A350 jet fam­ily and expects to make up its mind within a cou­ple of months, its sales chief said yes­ter­day.

The Euro­pean plane­maker is not yet of­fer­ing a spe­cific de­sign to air­lines, but any­thing that it does de­cide to build would leapfrog Boe­ing’s 777X, he said, re­fer­ring to a new 406-seat ver­sion of the US com­pany’s 777 wide-body se­ries. Air­bus’s largest twin-en­gined jet is the 369-seat A350-100, which com­petes partly with the 365-seat Boe­ing 777300ER. Asked about spec­u­la­tion that Air­bus could build a larger ver­sion of the A350, sales chief John Leahy told Reuters, “We don’t know yet. If I had to bet, the larger part of the mar­ket will stay around the A350-1000 or 777-300ER size cat­e­gory.

“I think in the next cou­ple of months we will know if we want to do some­thing.” Speak­ing to Reuters on Sun­day, Air­bus plane­mak­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive Fabrice Bregier did not rule out ex­pand­ing the A350 fam­ily, but said this was not an im­me­di­ate pri­or­ity. In a sign that any new plane would need to be care­fully mar­keted so as to avoid up­stag­ing the ex­ist­ing A350-1000, Leahy de­nied that the po­ten­tial new plane would be called the A350-1100.

“There is noth­ing called the A350-1100 and I wouldn’t call any­thing the 1100,” he said.

Boe­ing launched its 777X with record or­ders at the last Dubai Air­show in 2013. The move was widely seen as clip­ping the wings of the A350, which was de­signed partly to erode a mo­nop­oly en­joyed by the 777-300ER at the top end of the lu­cra­tive wide-body mar­ket.

Industry sources have said Air­bus is study­ing a counter-move to ex­pand its new A350 fam­ily with over 400 seats and power it with the next gen­er­a­tion of Rolls-Royce en­gines. Leahy said any new plane would be more than a sim­ple ef­fort to plug the gap with the 777X. “It would be sit­ting right on top of them with sim­i­lar range and pay­load and sub­stan­tially lower seat-mile costs. But be­fore putting our resources into that, we have got to de­ter­mine if that is a big enough mar­ket.” “If the mar­ket (for) 40-50 more seats is large enough, we don’t nec­es­sar­ily want to give that whole thing to Boe­ing.” He said any new plane would have “dou­ble-digit bet­ter” op­er­at­ing costs per seat than Boe­ing’s in per­cent­age terms. — Reuters

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