A350-800 future: Airbus says it stays firm; here’s what customers tell us

Flight Global has this story in which Airbus says it remains committed to the A350-800, a sub-type that is the smallest of the A350 family and which has been the subject of much speculation that Airbus will choose not to proceed with it.

Airbus hasn’t helped matters because it’s been encouraging customers to switch to the larger A350-900. John Leahy, COO-Customers, some time ago told us the larger -900 is more profitable for Airbus and customers could get deliveries sooner.

But, according to customers we talk to, there are other reasons, too. First, according to one customer, is that Airbus is de-risking the program by getting customers to switch to the -900. The program has been delayed nearly two years and customers expect at least one more delay of three to six months to entry into service. Airbus is concentrating resources on the -900, and by switching customers from the -800, Airbus relieves the pressure on these resources.

This customer, which has switched its orders from the -800 to the -900, believes Airbus will build the -800.

Flight Global has this story which echoes what we’ve been told, citing Akbar Al-Baker of Qatar Airways: he switched from the -800 to the -900 because of the delays. But he now believes Airbus should discontinue offering the -800.

Airbus declined comment on the tie between delays and the switches.

Another customer switched its order did so simply because it likes the operating economics and revenue potential of the larger -900 better than the -800.

A key supplier, however, takes a dimmer view. The person we talked with believes Airbus will let the A350-800 go away, but this is his personal opinion and says that his company hasn’t heard anything to suggest this will be the case.

Eliminating the -800 would leave Airbus without a new technology competitor to the Boeing 787-9. Although some, including Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia, believe Airbus should proceed with an A330neo. Airbus so far dismisses such suggestions and it has not asked engine makers to consider such a possibility. But one airline fleet planner told us that he believes Airbus will one day proceed with the A330neo with an EIS of around 2020. This means Airbus would not have to ask engine makers to explore the possibility until next year or even 2014. So what is true today may or may not be true “tomorrow.”

20 Comments on “A350-800 future: Airbus says it stays firm; here’s what customers tell us

  1. At some point Airbus decided to make the -800 as much as a “simple” -900 shrink as possible. That made the -800 loose much of its payload range strength compared to the -900. Still it will/would be able to carry a lot of cargo on typical 5000-6000NM flights.

    I agree the a A330NEO probably has much to do with strategic timing i.r.t. 787, A350, 777X..

  2. Hello everybody

    The key point for Airbus and Boeing is that the chain supply for both A330 / 777 is a very valuable asset (and one decisive factor for sticking with A320 and 737).
    If one assume that airbus / boeing are looking for something like 50/50 market share on widebody (note counting VLA’s), it implies for Airbus producing 15-20+ airplane a month within 2-3 years
    Don’t you think ?

  3. The A358XWB is looking more like the B787-3. The larger variants are simply more capable for not too much of extra costs of flying it.

    • That likening isn’t perfect.
      Pravda is that the 787-3 would have received significant modifications without actually resulting in a niche of excellence for the subtype ( shortrange cityhopper, a “real airline” would have used a 757 anyway ;-). In real life the final stab was from a watch infatuated rabbit : no time, no money.
      The A350-800 was to be a role optimised ULH frame . Timing and risk constraints morphed that into a plain shrink of the -900 model which probably is less attractive for the projected task than the original. But the redefinition of the -1000 and resultant demand for optimisation has created the means to return the -800 to its original domain ( and/or a lighter sibling with shorter range ). This circles around easy production of strength optimised parts without incurring prohibitive tooling cost.

      • Its close enough. The A358XWB is just too heavy of a plane for its needs. It was difficult for Airbus to optimize such a wide amount of pax configurations. They were smart to work on the A359/A35M rather than deal with the A358 which seams “over-bloated” for its missions-especially compared to the B789.

  4. GT62 :
    Well below? As of the end of November, 75 777′s delivered, adding December would put the year at 82. It is now running at the highest production rate ever and will deliver more than 88 in 2013.
    The A359 at 5/month now? Impressive, it has not even flown yet, but A is building at that rate.

    reading comprehension anyone?
    A350: we were talking about a 3..4 year horizont.

    777: production was highest in 2009 : 88 frames delivered.

    • OK, understanding the comprehension problem, I’ll be more clear: “well below”? 82/88 = 93% of all time high. Perhaps we don’t understand what the word “well” means.

      You stated A350 rates like they were facts, not projections. Sounds like someone who writes for Pravda…

  5. Pravda: A Russian Newspaper… Is that where you get your facts?
    783 was a -8 with shortened wings to fit in 767 gates and a dry center tank wth the same fuselage as -8. It was geared specifically for the Japan market for the two launch customers. You are correct that the market doesn’t support it’s own derrivative; ANA is now using a 268 seat version 788 for that role.

    “Real Airlines” know that single aisle planes load and unload much slower than twin aisles and therefore you lose time on the ground on short flights. Real aviation people know that shrinks hardly, if not ever, make good sense.

    You seem to make frequent references to parts for higher gross weights used on lower weight derrivatives, and you constantly say B planes can’t be lighter. Is this a standard practice for A to use oversized parts?

    Boeing planes are designed for the lower gross weight derrivatives and once margins are well understood are locally strengthened for HGW variants. Frames, skins and stringers are sized for the loads at specific locations based on loads. Of course building optimized parts is more expensive but it results in lighter airframes, but you wouldn’t do that if you want to build cheap planes 🙂

    • As I said. It is all about reading comprehension.
      “Pravda” ~= “The official truth” which may not be all that well rooted in reality.

      • 767’s are just as likely compensation for the late deliveries.

        The bottle neck is waiting for the person in 2A to put their steamer trunk in the overhead storage that already has two bags in it. Or to get it out on arrival. It takes only a second to get through the door. This is also why a 757-300 needs more emergency exits than a 777 or A330 (4 doors + 4 OWX).

  6. “Airbus hasn’t helped matters because it’s been encouraging customers to switch to the larger A350-900. John Leahy, COO-Customers, some time ago told us the larger -900 is more profitable for Airbus and customers could get deliveries sooner.”

    ‘Stupid questions’ time: how does Leahy know the A350-900 is more profitable for Airbus than the A350-800? Does he mean that the A350-900 is relatively less costly to build from a labor and materials standpoint than the 800? Or that Airbus could command a much higher premium for the -900 than the -800?

    My understanding for the 787-9 is that it may actually be relatively less expensive for Boeing to build than the 787-8 since the 787-8 used more materials (conservative esign margins) and did not embrace the “design for manufacturability” mantra nearly as much as the 787-9 did because of hindsight and lessons learned from the -8.

    • Leahy was referring to the profit margins… the -900 has a higher sticker price, therefore the airlines up gauging would be expected to kick in more money. The reality is that rarely happens to the extent Airbus likes to say, since it’s Airbus’ idea to get the airline to move they would need to offer some sort of incentive. They might have to pay Airbus a little more, but overall it’ll more likely be a wash.

      • The main financial benefit to Airbus may be to avoid penalties for late delivery of the A358s. The deal might work particularly well for airlines that are taking A359s as well. It could go something like this:

        We (Airbus) owe you penalties for late delivery of your A359s and we would also have to do the same on your A358s. Why not convert your A358s to A359s? You will now get your second batch of planes on time and we can deduct the A359 penalties from the price difference between the A358s you ordered and the A359s you get .

  7. The A350-800 has the same passenger capacity as the A330-200. And I think the MTOW margin is especially attractive for airlines that need field performance. However, the small amount of weight the shrinking saves probably is better invested when the larger aircraft is purchased and equipped with a spacious layout.

  8. I think the A350-800 passenger capasity is closer to the A330-300. It’s a few meters longer then the A330-200 and has a 9 abreast cabin.

    The A35-800 also has a far higher payload-range, has a heavier empty weight and is more expensive then the A330-300.

    Its for a different mission. Hence many expect the A330 will at some point get better engines, like most aircraft (A300, A320, A340, 727, 737, 747, 777).

  9. Hi,
    i really like airbus exterior design but airbus just focused on exterior design. when its takeoff on full throttle its too much noisy and so loud from aircraft cabin and the outside from a road, so airbus has to improve some noise pollution. and if u makeing a another aircraft try to make a good engine,,,,, that’s why i like Boeing Engine much then Airbus,,, Thank You

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