The delivery, last week in Toulouse, of Japan Airlines’ first Airbus A350-900 aircraft was full of symbolism for both Airbus and the Japanese airline. This was nothing less than the first delivery by the European manufacturer to an airline that, to date, was considered to be pretty much on Boeing’s own turf.
This point was highlighted during the delivery ceremony, when the statement that, in 2013, when it signed its A350 order, JAL was one of only two full-service airlines in the World with no Airbus aircraft in their fleet (bets are on about which was the other airline!)
(In fact, JAL did operate a handful of A300-600 following its integration of Japan Air System’s (JAS) fleet in the first decade of this century, but this was a rather circumstantial, short lived situation).
Today’s delivery is the first of 31 A350s ordered by the Japanese airline (18 of the -900 version and 13 of the -1000)
Just as its rival ANA did when coming up with triad of colourfully-liveried “Honu” A380s, a special livery is going to adorn JAL’s first three A350s, each in a different color. Today was “JALRed”, but Silver and Green liveries are coming up soon.
An interesting aspect of JAL’s plans for the type is that it intends to use its A350-900s mostly on relatively short domestic routes, such as the inaugural – it goes live on 1st September – A350 route Tokyo Haneda – Fukuoka.
JAL’s A350-900s have been engineered to optimize for this circumstance: at 217tn they are lighter than “regular” A350-900s, while engines with reduced thrust are meant to reduce fatigue in a context of more frequent flight cycles.
Flying wide-body aircraft on short-haul routes is, by no means, unusual in Japan. For much of its history JAL has deployed wide-body aircraft domestically and, even if JAL currently has narrowbody aircraft in its fleet such as Boeing 737s, the A350-900s are expected to replace Boeing 777-200s on high density domestic trunk routes.
At the media conference, Airbus executives were keen to remark how JAL’s decision showed that the A350 can be also an efficient choice of aircraft on shorter routes.
JAL’s A350-900 will feature a 3 -class cabin for a total of 369 passengers in total: 12 seats in “First” (2-2 arrrangement), 94 in “Class J” (a sort of Premium Economy) and 263 in “Comfort Economy”. All three classes will have newly designed seats with power outlets and USB ports. JAL is also going to offer wi-fi connectivity onboard.
Most cabin interior details, though, won’t be unveiled until a separate event in Tokyo in July.