Airbus delivered an A350XWB program update yesterday in Toulouse. Clearly the company is feeling ever more confident in the program. Airbus provided interesting data on the backlogs through October 8th. Notice how the market has swung from the current generation of single aisles to the new generation. Clearly Airbus has benefited from the first mover advantage. However, Boeing benefited even more in the next category; the 787 is thrashing the A330 in backlog. The A350 has done remarkably well against the 777, but expect these numbers to change after the upcoming Dubai show, where the 777x is expected to pick up at least 150 orders. In the last segment, this is well known news, so no comment.
Airbus shows how they see their product lining up against Boeing’s. The A330 is compared to the 787 and the A350 to the 777. But it’s more subtle than that.
Airbus makes the case that airline interest has moved to the larger sizes (what we like to call the Super Twins) – over 300-seaters are now far more attractive to airlines. The facts seem to support his because Boeing is moving up the 787 and the 777 in size. The A330-300 is now getting more interest than the A330-200. Similarly, Boeing is seeing more interest in the 787-9 than the 787-8. Airbus says the 250-seat market has seen a backlog shrink by 402 while the 300-seat market is up 662.
Airbus explains that in developing the A350, they had lots of conversations with customers. Which is what Boeing said about the 777 – and we see how well that worked for Boeing. Airbus has also seen growing acceptance of the A350 because of customer input. As in every business, listening to the customer is the smart thing to do.
Airbus notes its A350-1000 customers believe that this aircraft can replace the 777-300ER while being 40 tonnes lighter (savings of 20t in fuel and 20t in structure) on a 6,500 mile mission with 350 passengers. But Airbus then went to explain the nuance of seat count differences even though the A350-1000 and 777-300ER are the same size. The 777-300ER has five doors to the four on the A350-1000. At a standard nine-abreast seating the A350-1000 can fit a few more seats.
As a reaction to market acceptance of the A350-1000, Airbus believes Boeing had to stretch the 777 to the -9x variant. Airbus estimates the -9x will be 35t heavier than the A350-1000. Then Airbus made a very interesting calculation – they don’t think Boeing will increase the -9x MTOW over what the -300ER has now (351t). Therefore, given the higher weight of the -9x, Airbus thinks the -9x payload will be reduced. Even if the -9x has 35 more seats (10 abreast) Airbus thinks its fuel burn will still be 15% higher than the A350-1000 on a per trip basis. Crucially, Airbus notes the per seat fuel burn on the -9x will be the same as the A350-900, but it will only be available after 2020 whereas the A350-900 will offer this in 2014. Lufthansa believes both aircraft will be at 2.9liters/passenger/100km. (One can almost see JAL managers nodding in the background and ANA managers pondering)