Singapore Air Show

Airbus mulls 10-abreast A350XWB for AirAsia

 - February 20, 2008, 2:43 AM

Airbus is studying 10-abreast seating for its A350WXB following interest from low-cost airlines including AirAsia, which has inquired a potential 25-aircraft order.
“Ten-abreast looks doable for AirAsia,” said Airbus chief operating officer-customers, John Leahy. “It would be at least as comfortable as the A330/A340 with nine-abreast seating.” Currently, the A350WXB is offered with eight-abreast seating for “high comfort” and nine across for “extra high efficiency.”

According to Airbus president Tom Enders, the A350XWB has become the “fastest selling jet aircraft of all time,” with 310 firm orders from 15 customers since the aircraft re-launched in July 2006. A further 10 airlines hold letters of intent, and Leahy predicted orders this year “will exceed 100 aircraft.”

Meanwhile, intensive talks with GE Aviation have failed to produce an alternative engine to the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 powering all three versions of the A350XWB. GE Aviation has proposed its Boeing 787 GEnx for the A350XWB-800 and -900, but will not meet Airbus’ demands for a single engine also capable of powering the larger
-1000, which competes directly with the GE-powered Boeing 777-300ER.

“The idea is that the engine manufacturers suit their engines to our needs, not the other way around,” said Leahy. The GE Aviation/Pratt & Whitney Engine Alliance powering the A380 is considering a growth version of the A380’s GP7200, but its director, of product marketing, Al Creque, expressed frustration. “Rolls-Royce has a free run. Someone has to make a decision soon,” he said.

Orders for the A380 now stand at 192 firm from 16 customers, including the three extra aircraft for Korea announced just before the show. “We’ve regained momentum,” said Leahy. “We think we’ll sell another 27 or so this year.” He explained the grounding on February 19 of Singapore Airlines’ sole in-service A380 after a fuel pump failure as a “glitch.”

“Reliability has been excellent–comparable with aircraft that have been flying for years,” said Leahy.