Airbus Innovation Days, Part 5: wide body twin development

Kiran Rao, executive vice president, strategy and marketing.

Rao discussed the wide-body strategy for Airbus at Innovation Days on Wednesday. The following paraphrasing synopsizes his remarks.

  • More than 3,500 wide bodies have been sold by Airbus, starting with the A300B2, the first wide0body twin.
  • 1,200 wide-bodies are in backlog. A330: 250-300 seats; A350: 280-370 seats; A380 more than 500 seats (two-class, long range layout).
  • Airbus officials, including Rao, continued to promote the company’s 18-inch seat campaign, comparing the A-Series against the Boeing 777/787 17-inch 10 abreast and nine abreast respectively.
  • Boeing has to go 10 abreast with the 777 “because the economics don’t work at nine abreast.” Boeing had to go with nine abreast on the 787 rather than eight abreast because the “economics don’t work” compared with the A330 otherwise.
  • Economics is the “most important criteria” and the “Airbus aircraft come out ahead.”
  • Rao claims the A330 has lower maintenance costs, lower airport, lower navigation and lower capital costs. The A330 has simpler systems so costs less to maintain, particularly on the engines. The A330-300 is slightly lighter than the 787-9.
  • For the first time we’ve heard, an Airbus official referred to the “A330ceo.”
  • Each seat for a long-haul operator is worth $2m per year, so an A350-900 vs a 787-9 with 35 more seats can generate $70m more revenue per year.
  • The A350-1000 has a 15% COC per trip and a 5% COC per seat advantage, Rao says. Assumptions: 4,000nm, $3/gal, 2 class configuration, 369 seats for A350, 405 seats for 777-9.
  • 777-9X is inefficient without the stretch and a longer wing. It has inferior comfort, Rao says.

52 Comments on “Airbus Innovation Days, Part 5: wide body twin development

  1. Again the story is muddled, and they want everything to be measured against the 787-9? The A330-300 weighs less, with more reliable technology over the newer engines used on the -9. But wait is it not newer engines that make the case for the NEO? Then the A350-900 is a better performer than the 787-9? So why can’t Boeing compare the A330NEO to the 787-10, and why can’t the A350-900 be compared to the 787-10? Because the -10 flies the same route patterns as the A330CEO/NEO, and the value of the deal goes against the Airbus market pitch. Old technology is better than the newer technology used in the 787, but it’s okay for the A350? Better get more popcorn popping!!!!

  2. Airbus has to go 9 abreast with the A350, because the A350 is too narrow for 10 abreast. Airbus had to go with eight abreast on the A330 rather than nine abreast, because the A330 is too narrow for nine abreast. Airbus has the narrower aircraft, yet they try to sell it as an advantage!

    The A330 has simpler systems so costs less to maintain, particularly on the engines.

    What kind of engines will the A330 neo have?

    • The A330 is built as a true 8 across and the A350 as a true 9. There was no extra width for nothing. The +1 is mostly used by LCCs. Boeing screwed up with their dimensioning that the extra width gave no benefit to premium airlines other than to go with the same configuration as LCCs. Their originally advertised 8 across layout is a complete failure in the market, save for the two Japanese operators. I believe NH has moved onto 9 across as well for newer deliveries.

      • So giving the airlines the option of 8X or 9X is a screw up? How nay of these screw ups has Boeing sold so far? The reason the A350 Mark I was a complete failure in the market is that it was too narrow, and only allowed for 8X seating.

    • In my opinion, 17″ is substandard for even a 2 hour flight on Southwest. I figure Boeing planned for 18″ at five, but the DC-8 forced them to copy the slightly larger fuse designed to split the difference between five and six in economy. Five in economy was as rare as eight is on the 787, so the split the difference idea doesn’t seem to be of value. I think the original 737 brochures shows five in economy as well.

      • TC, Single-aisle tourist class triple seats have been the same width since 1959; the A320 makes a big fuss over adding a fraction of an each seat bottom

        The DC-8 and 707 have essentially the same outside fuselage width: 147 and 148 inches respectively. Some early 707 [TWA] and DC-8 [United] operators tried 5-abr one-class but they could not compete with four-abr 1st class plus six-abr tourist.

        The 727, 737 and 757 have the same cabin width as the 707. They have always been six-abr tourist, not five abr

        The DC-9/MD-80 fuselage is 18 inches narrower than the DC-8, so these airplanes have always been 5-abr tourist..

        • At the time of the last flight of the VC10 last year reports mentioned that the 707 & DC8 fuselages were originally designed for 5 Abr but sufficient airlines preferred the 6 Abr offered by the also under development Vickers V1000 that both Boeing and Douglas redesigned to suit. The V1000 ended up being cancelled before rollout.

          I wonder what would have happened if the V1000 had been cancelled earlier or if Vickers had chosen eg 8 Abr.

      • “Substandard” depends on region. Maybe it’s too narrow for the average USA airline, but good ifor Asian airlines?

        • True, a 17″ wide seat may fit standard ergonomics in areas where people are less wide, or the food courts aren’t as good as Midway airport.

    • Neither manufacturer “screwed up”, they simply predicted the marketplace differently.

    • About 10 abreast on the 777 and 9 abreast on the 787. Does Boeing have no choice but to communicate it really is perfectly ok? If its not they can always say its the airlines choice.. but of course keep using in in CASM comparisons.

      The narrow aisles resulting from these 9-10 abreast “optimization” make fellow passengers and trolleys bump into your shoulders and arms (at night). As Boeing ?EK too know, but will Never mention.. Management by Denial..

      Putting airline mngt and OEM mngt in such a full economy cabin for a delayed LAX flight. That helps. They never go there.

      • Keesje, 777 ten abr and 787 nine abr are both deplorable, but it’s the airlines that are making that choice – no one is forcing them.

        History is repeating itself. In 1970, 747’s were 2-4-3 nine-abr, but by the end of the decade they were almost all 3-4-3 ten-abr. In 1972, DC-10’s and Tristars were 2-4-2 eight-abr but they soon all became 2-5-2 nine-abr.

        Now the 777-300ER. Long-range ten abr has been the trend since around 2007, starting with Air France and KLM. There are still a lot of older 777-200’s (and some 777-300ER’s) that are 2-5-2 or 3-3-3 nine abr, but you will need to use or to find them.

        Is Boeing wrong to use the lower 777X and 787 standards? These are seat plans in brochures for public use. They mean nothing to potential customers. Any airline that is serious about either airplane will develop their own interior arrangement using their own comfort standards. Only then will they be able to accurately analyze the 777X and 787 vs the competition. Unfortunately for us passengers, we have passed the tipping point where comfort means nothing and profit means everything.

        • an airline could put 5 abreast in a 737 too, it isn’t the aircrafts comfort disadvantage..

        • Many airlines put 17.2 inch seats into their Airbus planes. If the extra thumb width of space that your get with an 18 inch seat, really made a difference in comfort, and passengers flocked to a particular airline because of them, all airlines would use the marginally wider seat. But they don’t.

          Passengers choose flights based price and schedule. No one is going to pay more or, fly at an inconvenient time, for an extra thumb width of seat bottom.

      • I couldn’t agree more. I’ve flown both 777’s and A340/A330’s in coach, business, and first (EK and EY). There is no real difference in business or first. There is a HUGE difference in coach-where most passengers fly. Sooner or later, the market. i.e the passengers, will learn and will prefer those long haul airlines who fly the less crowded A330/340’s, A350’s and perhaps even the 787.

        • Joe, according to, all of Emirates’ 777-200’s and -300’s are ten-abr in coach; even their longest-range 777-200LR. Yuck and double yuck. Etihad’s -300ER’s are 3-3-3 nine-abr.

          Cherish the nine-abr 777’s while they last. Not just Etihad’s but others also. Each seat will be about an inch wider than an 8-abr A330/340. Also more head room in the aisles and under the bins. . At 10-abr a 777 seat will be about the same width as the 8-abr A330/340, but the aisle will be two [!!] inches narrower. But the head room will still be better.

        • “At 10-abr a 777 seat will be about the same width as the 8-abr A330/340”

          Uhm.. no?

        • All aisles equal:

          777 at 10 – 16.5″
          380 at 11 – 16.7″
          787 at 9 – 16.9″

          350 at 9 – 17.4″
          747 at 10 – 17.4″

          767 at 7 – 18.0″
          330 at 8 – 18.3″
          380 at 10 – 18.6″
          777 at 9 – 18.6″

        • TC, aisle widths do not have to be equal for all airplanes. The FAA requires them to be at least 15 inches wide. As long as an airline installs seats that meet that FAA requirement they are free to trade seat width for aisle width. Wider seat = narrower aisle and vice versa.

          Keesje, page 2-5-0 of the A330 airport planning document shows a 19-inch aisle and a 41.5-inch double for an 8-abr A330. It does not show an individual seat bottom width. Deducting space for a center armrest and the seat belts implies a cushion around 17 to 18 inches.wide.

          Page 2.5.2 of the 777 airport planning document shows 2-5-2 nine abr with a 19.25-inch aisle plus a 43-inch double with 18.5 inch cushions. At ten-abr the aisle is 17 inches; the cushion is also 17 inches.

          These documents are available on-line from the Airbus and Boeing websites

          Concerning a 5-abr 737, the inboard seat track may be inboard of the double seat’s aisle-side arm rest.. Can anyone answer that?

        • A330s with 17 inch aisles seem more feasible then 777s with 17 inch aisles, because less passenger have to move through those aisles.

          It seems some are working towards a set outcome regarding 10 abreast 777. It’s OK and lets do apples / oranges, generalizations and halftruths to make the case.

        • How much will passengers pay for a 19″ aisle versus a 17″ aisle? Or, what’s it worth to the airlines in boarding or crew productivity?

          Since Boeing is spending millions to thin the sidewall on the 777x, and Airbus is pondering spending millions to raise the floor of the A380, the value of a wider aisle must be considerable.

        • Keesje, thanks for the KLM photo. Note that the double’s seat track is just below the arm rest.

          Intra-Europe single aisle business class is better than coach but rarely 2-2 four abr. Some airlines use triples at extra pitch but didnt sell the center seat. At one time SAS tried a convertible triple where one side got wider and the other compressed to make a crude 5-abr. Neither side was very comfortable.

          Congrats to KLM for using dedicated five abr.

  3. I’d think a coach seat on a commercial airliner would generate $100/hr, maybe $2000/day, maybe $700,000/ yr?

  4. The USD2m/yr must be wrong, there’s no way. That’s USD5,500/day, that’s too high even for an average across all clases. When I fly to DC in all-flexible J on BA I pay that much. The guys back in steerage pay maybe 30% of that number. When I fly to Astana or Almaty I pay USD4,000 in fully flexible J on LH. When I took a fully flexible J one-way from INC to LHR on OZ recently I paid USD3,300. The planes in all cases are doing one return per day.

  5. “Again the story is muddled”,

    Not muddled, spun. So it goes. Like using weather predictions when we know (at least in this part of the world) they will be wrong. PR departments seem compelled to tyr even though airlines use their own assessment tools and operate their markets according to what they think (for success or not) not what the PR spin is.

    I don’t care about width (obvious there are people that do). You actually can do something about that. I do care about length and I am not all that tall and I am not comfortable in the LCC world. My wife is really hurt by it.

    Doing something about your length takes some drastic surgery (and which end to cut off?)

  6. Does “the company’s 18-inch seat campaign” still include their A340?

    They were pitching narrower seating possibly in a way to unload those coming off lease into their hands.

  7. Ahh, there are two things I come to rely on every week – Friday’s and a comment about the miracle 18″ seat width. Reminds me of the Three Little Bears story: 18.5″ is TOO Big, 17″ is TOO small, 18″ is JUST RIGHT! I’m trying to figure out what portion of the world demographic fits this magical number. The average American butt would probably want the 18.5″ (but is too cheap to pay for it), the average Northern European man would probably want two more inches for their legs instead of 1″ more butt width, and the average Asian more Yuan in their pocket than either.

    As Oliver said, the 777 was originally designed for comfort at 18.5″, and later airlines started to put an extra seat in because that is what the market demanded. The 787 was designed to match the comfort of a 777, or use the 17″ width. Fortunately with the 787 an airline isn’t committed to the same answer for the next 20+ years – the floor grid is designed with seat tracks to accomodate either 8 or 9 across and the airline can switch some or all of the rows on some or all of their planes from one to another in less than a day.

    I guess it all comes down to choice – you can offer the customer an option, or to adapt the Henry Ford quote – you can get any size you want, as long as it is 18″. So if enough passengers were willing to do more than just complain and actually pay more for a seat, then some airlines will fill this market demand, and it would be nice to have a plane that can do it easily. I guess there isn’t much else to talk about with the new planes…

  8. “Each seat for a long-haul operator is worth $2m per year, so an A350-900 vs a 787-9 with 35 more seats can generate $70m more revenue per year.”

    This is typical dumb Airbus argument. If each extra seat is worth $2 million per year than why not just buy an A380. Extra seats are only of use to an airline if the demand exists. Of course the A350-800 has been a huge debacle for Airbus so they need to resort to dumb marketing arguments since they don’t have a product.

  9. Well put overall but I disagree about and oath that “demand” thing phrase

    I sure did not demand any of it. I am caught up in the race to the bottom (figuratively and literally)

  10. Talking about Widebodies and the A350 development.

    I am amazed at the amount of Kool-aide that is being distributed by the American Press and how it warps American’s perception of Airbus. For example, I just saw the headline “Emirates Airlines cancels order for 70 of Airbus’ troubled A350” plastered all over the net by American news sources. Many Americans will look at the headline and figure Airbus is in a world of hurt with a failing program – instead of just having lost a major order. As a result, many Americans will be confused when the Airbus A350 curb-stomps the 777 into oblivion – and they will shout European Socialism and such (for how else could such a “Troubled” plane beat America’s 777 Techno-Champion?).

    I think all the Koolaide Americans have been drinking are going to leave them with a big hangover surprise when A350 Production gets ramped up in 2018. Unlike the 787, it appears that the A350 is going to meet specs from day one and make money (i.e., hit Break-Even very quickly)

    And the A380…don’t get me started. Yeah…the A380 was a financial disaster to Airbus, but had Airbus been using Boeing’s Accounting, they could claim a profit. What a joke. I bet Boeing wished the 787 Program had been as successful as the Airbus A380!

    • Wow….such Airbus vs. Boeing post and it wasn’t deleted. And such colorful language, too.

      • Neutron73,

        That post wasn’t deleted because it’s true: Americans get a very slanted view of Airbus through the US media. Hundreds of News outlets in the US ran with the “A350 Troubled” headline even thought it was extremely misleading based on the facts. i mean, have you been keeping abreast of the A350 Qualification Testing? It’s going extremely smooth, and is a far cry from what Boeing experienced during the 787 Qual Testing. Also, have you been paying attention to the fact that the first A350 will be delivered meeting all Speciifications? Again…that’s pretty-darned impressive and it’s reminiscent of the Olde Boeing and Olde Airbus: Companies that got things done.

        Now, the average guy reads that headline – a guy who really doesn’t care about the industry so much – and he gets the impression that the A350 is troubled because the headline says so – and maybe he figures the A350 is troubled like…the 787. A few years later and the 777 Passenger side of the 777 Program is being shut down because no one is buying 777s – everyone wants the A350. So…what does this average guy think when he here’s the word Subsidies”? He thinks the 777 got whacked because of Subsidies because the A350 was just a “Troubled” airplane…or maybe some other nonsense comes to his head that he regurgitates from some news headline he’s read in the past. In any case, he’s got a warped view of reality that doesn’t help come voting day when he elects people who give subsidies to the Aircraft Industry and expect nothing performance-wise in return.

        Seriously, I have talked to people who believe that the 787 is the ultimate wunder-plane and that Boeing is making a Metric Tonne of money selling it (actually, in the past couple of years they remember all the plane fires, too). When I mention to these people that the 787 has been a utter financial disaster so far and will take forever and a day to make money, they just can’t believe it – because that’s not what they have been reading in the News Headlines! Their denials are usually followed by something like, “Well, if Boeing is not making any money on the 787, then why are they selling and making so many?” You see?

        Back in the day, I remember how nearly an entire generation of Americans thought that Japanese cars were crappy rice mobiles and that they would never exceed American Quality….much less German Automotive Perfection – and a lot of people drank the Koolaide. Well…it took the likes of Lexus (Toyota) and Accord (Honda) to finally slap these people into reality but it happened (even the Germans and Italians were Delusional with their worship of Mercedes and Ferraris). Nevertheless, it was already too late for Ford and GM and Chrysler (make me vomit) to catch up within even a generation.

        Just some thoughts.

    • Keesje,

      Your post is complete weak-sauce. Nearly every one of those article headlines pulled their article from AP, and the AP Bureau in France You are trying to be clever but your link is completely misleading. All pulled from the same source except Economic Times of India, which appears to have written their own article. I guess they have a bias, too?

      And the AP article was reported from PARIS, FRANCE. Yeah, some U.S. bias right there.

      • Neutron73,

        Did you even attempt an estimate of how many US News Sources repeated that Headline? I counted over 150.

        Now…that’s some pretty serious disinformation that Americans are getting.

      • The 358, 319n, and 737-7 will never see the light of day, in their current config anyway.

        • Interesting thing is the Hawaian A358 seems pretty well solid. They need the range, the A359 seems too large and the A330 probably won’t have the payload range required for their network.. Same for the 737-7. What about SWA? Many flights where the -8 is way too large.

          E.g. DL MD80 series replacement, A319/737-7 would be the good match. Just like at AA.

        • keesje,

          I know the A350-800 looks like a solid demand from Hawaian, but can Airbus afford to build it? I mean, if they build that A350-800 then they are going to be competing directly against the 787-9 (which was just certified). Not only is the 787-9 a composite,fuel-saving aircraft (that is operationally maturing, too), but it’s wing seems better sized for that sized aircraft than is the wing of the A350-800. As a result, I just can’t see how putting the A350 into production makes since unless there is a huge demand and the wing is sized smaller – neither of which I think is going to happen soon.

          Instead, Airbus can offer Hawaian the A330-300 and some cash (or some such deal) to make up the difference, or get a Broker to purchase some 787-9 delivery slots when they come open (slots are always coming open). But…regardless of what Airbus chooses to do, I think their time and money can be better spent on something other than going “heads up” with the 797-9.

          Hope this makes sense.


    • Apparently not.. Would you look at the CS300 when you already have A320s and a fully developed after sales world under your fingertips. No doubt the CS300 is more fuel efficient on a CASM basis. But it can’t be grown/stretched (yet), doesn’t carry cargo containers, doesn’t go 3500NM and doesn’t have the same cockpit as an A320/737. Now is that really that important? …. Ask BBD.

      • All good points, but to make these shrinks is an investment, and the small number built will not provide a return on that investment. If the 321 wing can carry 240, I’m pretty sure the CS wing is optimal for 150 in some fuselage length.

  11. Another interesting piece on Emirates:

    They say that Dubai is Shanghai on steroids,” notes Clark as he stares out of his office window in the terminal, admiring a row of gleaming Emirates A380s. A neat, dapper man in his 60s, Clark reveals that his first job (after graduating with an economics degree from the University of London) was as a bus conductor. That humble beginning, he says, taught him the basics of the transport trade “because right from the start I was intrigued at the pricing structure and the type of bus fleet, and saw great similarities when I joined the airline industry.” He subsequently spent 14 years in aviation before moving to Dubai.

    Emirates has 47 A380s in service and another 93 ordered, but the challenge of filling these giant aircraft as the world slowly emerges from the global recession doesn’t faze Clark at all. He says 93 is nowhere near enough for Emirates’ needs, and then his eyes light up at the thought of all the potential customers out there in the modern world. “Look at China,” he exclaims. “The Chinese market is big enough for all of us. There are cities we haven’t heard of—with populations half the size of Britain—and they’ve got three international flights a week.”

    So, as of today the EK 777-300ER is takeing over all of the routes still flown by smaller aircraft, while the A380 is put into service alongside the 777-300ER, or is replacing it due to higher demand etc. (i.e at LHR, JFK and LAX).

    As demand steadily grows and new routes are opened, in the early 2020s EK will have some 120-150 A380s and 150+ 777s.

    From the mid-point of the next decade, EK would obviously want to have an A380-900/1000 available and start replacing the A380-800 with larger aircraft on existing route sectors flown by the large A380-800 fleet, while the latter keeps on replacing smaller aircraft (i.e 777s). Hence, by 2030 EK could be operating upwards of 300+ A380s and 100+ 777Xs, or equivalent sized A350-1200Xs.

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