Can the A350-800 rise out of its own ashes, like the Phoenix?

The announcement last week that Hawaiian Airlines swapped its order for six Airbus A350-800s for the A330-800neo isn’t a particular surprise, although we thought HA might issue an RFP and open the competition for Boeing.

That it did not may speak as much as to lack of the Boeing 787’s availability as anything else. But Airbus had some advantages going into a replacement for the A358: HA already operates a fleet of A330-200(ceos), so there is commonality between the neo and the ceo, minimal integration costs and the likelihood of additional Airbus incentives to keep HA in the Airbus family.

Boeing would have had to offer up an entire fleet integration plan, exceptional pricing for the 787 and somehow find comparable delivery slots. This would have been a tough proposition.

With HA’s defection from the A358, there are now just 26 remaining orders.

The going assumption for the better part of a year has been that the A358 is a dead airplane. HA provides another nail in the coffin. Airbus continues to maintain the A358 will merely be resequenced to after the A350-1000, and now officials talk about a 2020 entry-into-service date. In the current design, we believe the A358 certainly is dead. But like the Phoenix, can it be resurrected?

Many think the A330neo is essentially a resurrected version of the original A350 concept from 2004. In reality, it’s quite a bit less than A350 V. 1.0., but the point is taken.

While the conventional wisdom is that the A350-800 is now dead if not totally buried, we’d like to offer an alternative view on its future. We’re not advocating this view to be the case, but rather as food for thought.

During the Airbus Innovation Days in June, Airbus Commercial CEO Fabrice Bregier told us that with some money and engineering, the A350-800 could become a good airplane.

This statement is revealing on a couple of levels, not the least of which is acknowledgement that the design isn’t a “good” airplane. Our analysis, and fleet planners we’ve talked to, note that the A358’s operating cost is about the same as the larger A350-900, which carriers more passengers—so why not go with the larger airplane? Most customers did.

A large part of the problem is that the A350-800 is simply a “cut and shut” shrink of the A350-900. Originally the A358 was to have its own landing gear and a lightened wing variant, optimized to the smaller airframe, but cost-cutting did away with this, and the A358 shares the A359’s landing gear and wing. In fact, it is only shortened by 10 fuselage frames and with only the top panel re-dimensioned to the lower load-case of a shorter fuselage.

Bregier’s comment about future investment and design parallels one by John Leahy, COO-Customers of Airbus, who has alluded to the need to work the A358 over a bit.

So our alternative scenario is this: suppose, after the A350-900 and -1000 enter service, Airbus no longer has the cash flow R&D demands associated with these derivatives, and tweaking the A358 into an optimized 250-passenger, new technology airplane that is common with the larger aircraft—and an EIS of around 2025, if not sooner, to replace the A330neos becomes the game plan?

Airbus claims it won’t need a new, clean-sheet replacement for the A320 family until a 2030 EIS (meaning a launch of about 2022-23). There is the prospect, however remote or realistic, of an A380neo with a 2020-21 EIS. An A350-800”P” (for Phoenix, rising from the ashes) could fit in this timeline.

A potential monkey wrench: we believe Boeing will launch replacements for the 757 and 737 families around 2018 with EIS around 2025 for the 757RS and 2027 for the 737RS. Airbus would be forced to accelerate its A320RS to match.

Will an A350-800P happen? Who knows—this is way too far in the future. But at some point, the A330 will need replacement with a newer technology platform. Resurrecting the A358 may be the answer as opposed to an entirely new airplane program.

As we said, food for thought.

49 Comments on “Can the A350-800 rise out of its own ashes, like the Phoenix?

  1. Which would be cheaper? Redesigned A358 or do an a330-1000? A345 fuselage with new wing and engines

    • In my opinion there is no place on the market for A330-1000. A330neo is depreciated and cheaper, new family model will cost a bit more. A350-800P (Phoenix or release 2) should be cheaper than the original and maybe a little longer (e.g. two frames, 1.27m); with lighter engines (e.g. Trent 7000 – not XWB, 72 or 78k lbf in 2018); lighter pylons (and wings); long range; EIS after A330neo: 2019-20.

      Perhaps Airbus needs four models in A350(neo) family (instead of three): two lowest and cheaper (e.g. 62m+67m, MTOW 300t, larger wing, six-wheel bogey, XWB(neo) engines).

      • Text correction after cutting a special characters (less then – more then):

        Perhaps Airbus needs four models in A350(neo) family (instead of three): two lowest and cheaper (e.g. 62m+67m, MTOW less then 260t, without XWB engines) and two highest structures (e.g. 69.5m+75m, MTOW more then 300t, larger wing, XWB engines, six-wheel bogey).

  2. I don’t understand the either/or. To me, there appears to be sufficient volume and sufficiently clear segmentation to make having both 330 and 350 derivatives (+ 787 and maybe new757 from boeing) on offer.

  3. At the “end of this decade” Rolls means to come out with the “Advanced Trent”, intending to save another 20% fuel. That date would perfectly suit the entry of a redesigned A350-800 and the conversion from the XWB-engine should be rather straightforward. Now ad some lighter gear and possibly smaller wings and you get a truly interesting long range plane.
    In the future you will always have to look at the engines first when you talk new planes, and chances are that it will be like that with this plane too.

  4. There is a need for a twin aisle aircraft designed for short to medium ranges. The A330R is a cheap solution. I can’t see a reason for a A330-1000? Maybe an A330-400R.

    The production costs for A350 will get lower and then I expect an A350 fuselage with an optimized wing for shorter ranges. This would be a new aircraft family just like the A300 fuselage was inherited to other family members. Maybe “A35X” for ten abreast on short ranges?

    I expect just Aeroflot to stay with their A350-800 order to irk Airbus and the EU. Yemenia will for sure take the cheaper solution and Asiana with a fleet of 25 A330 can get along with an A330NEO. Aeroflot could get the cheap A350-800 chainsaw solution an A350-900 with just a shorter fuselage.

    • I agree. Airbus will want to move to the A350 fuselage for its next medium haul aircraft. Despite all its advances in technology, the 787 had only one really telling sales advantage over the A350 Mark I: the ability for most airlines to squeeze in an extra person in an economy row. Airbus can do the same with the A350 fuselage. They now need to create a genuine medium haul aircraft with it,instead of simply shrinking their larger long haul airplane,

      • I’ve always thought similarly. As Airbus ‘learns and understands’ the a350-900/1000, shaves off weight and tweak, as they do over time on all models, an 800 and 1100 will appear as engine tech improves. It’s important to always remember that it’s the ‘platform’ that’s the real hurdle… The,tube and systems inside,the,tube.

        The,a350 ‘tube’ will become, over time, the platform for 800/1100 versions.

        Wing ‘platform’ studies really need to be,researched. A common ‘root’ structure that can be up-structured and up-skinned. Must be possible with modern CRFP layering and build up.

  5. if, then probably as long-range version, probably the only way the heavy landing gear, wings etc make sense. (à la 777-200LR)
    Otherwise, I don t see why Airbus should invest money into having a plane that blocks production slots for more expensive planes (being 350-900, 1000) while as Airbus you must prefer customers buying the 330-900 instead. Developing a 350-1200 or -1100 probably has the better revenue potential.

    • Once the current ordering boom is over and the 787 and A350 shortages turn to surplus. That’s when they will introduce the A330 replacement. It won’t be a question of blocking production slots for more expensive aircraft, but instead an effort to use the capacity of the A350 production line. Around 2025, I think. An A350-1100 would come in at this point,if it does at all.

  6. I think it depends how A330neo sales will be holding up. If they are good Airbus might be satisfied with gradual improvements of 330neo and might go after 777X instead with further stretch of A350.

  7. I don´t think it´s just food for thought, By 2023 new orders for the 330 neos will be drying up and Airbus is in need for an enhanced successor.An optimised wing and lighter fuselage and the latest version of engines will create a very attrative version of a smaller twin jet engine.

    • Horgiman,
      I do not see that the tailing off of orders for the 330 would wait for 2023. But I do agree that the 330 is a stop-gap.

      If Airbus does wait for the lessons it will learn from the 350-900 and 1000 and incorporate that into a relaunched 350-800, then it is possible to have a nice little jet that can compete head-on with the B787.

      • i am afraid it won’t be a “nice little jet that can compete head-on with the B787”, simply because its structure is much heavier, optimized for the bigger -900.

        Even if Mike Tyson keeps a strict diet, he will have most probably not the same weight as Eva Longoria. Just because his bones are optimized for a
        5 ft 10 in, hers for 5 ft 2 in.

        • “Even if Mike Tyson keeps a strict diet, he will have most probably not the same weight as Eva Longoria.”

          – Bad example. It is like comparing a widebody to a narrowbody. 😉

  8. Airbus decided to stop selling the A350-800 and pushing the A350-900 years ago (2010?).

    I tend to agree with most here that the 200-300 seat short/medium haul after 2015 needs something better then a re-engined A330 or slimmed down A350.

    Likely Airbus will replace the 120-300 seat portfolio with two aircraft; a light short haul 120-180 seats design and a bigger, medium haul aircraft. Replacing the A320-A321-A300/A310 and A330-200R by two aircraft late in the next decade.

    Meanwhile I see Airbus growing the pain for Boeing in the NB segment with new optimized A320 variants. Low hanging fruit like a realisticly configured 200 seater, a capable freighter and (higher hanging) rewinged 4000NM variants.

    Boeing launching a new NSA in 2018 as Scott states becomes increasingly more likely. And not because they like so.

    On the A350-800, most probably Airbus will revisit the A350 strategy in a few years when the A330NEO enters service, the A350 is produced at full speed and the 777X is still years away from EIS. Maybe a A350-1100 is a more profitable direction by that time.

    Boeing will have to significantly improve the 787, engineering 787-9 modifications into the 787-8. If the heavier 787-9 flies further with the same wing and engines, opportunities for -8 enhancements are in place.

    • Naturally I would think that if Airbus is selling tons of A320’s, CEO and Neo’s, that Boeing would be able to get a head start on the newest version of its newest NB since all of those contract have to be fulfilled some time or another.

      Since the NEO launch I would say that this is the first head scratcher we have witnessed, so much for the A330 NEO and the A350 not stealing orders from each other,

      “Boeing will have to significantly improve the 787, engineering 787-9 modifications into the 787-8. If the heavier 787-9 flies further with the same wing and engines, opportunities for -8 enhancements are in place.”

      I don’t think so. The biggest reason why carriers would opt for the 330 8/9 rather than the 788 is because of availability. The direction of conversions are not going backwards but forwards. That being said Boeing will not invest too much in the 788. You might see a PIP sooner than a re-engine.

      As far as the A350-800 goes, that bird is done. Between the A330 800/900, A350-1000, A350-900, A330 200/300, A380 the pattern at Toulouse is full. They could bring it back but for what and to compete with what? In the next 10 years there will be more A350-900’s, A350-1000’s, 789’s, 781’s and 778/9’s flying around than 788’s, which what the A350-800 would be competing with (as it is). I just dont see it.

      • Would this be a bigger “head scratcher” to you?

        Cathay Pacific was “mulling the 787-10” to replace its A330s… –

        …but has now stated that they’ll have a “good look at the A330neo”. –

        Sounds like the 787-10 order is no longer a given. And you don’t suppose that Boeing would reserve some prime slots for a blue chip customer like CX?

        • My point was that Airbus said the A330-800/900 that wouldn’t impact A350 sales. Clearly this backpedal is impacting an order for A350’s. I’m not losing sleep over CX looking at other models, it’d be illogical for them not to see what else is out there.

        • @Rotate

          – Many of us here would agree that it would have some impact on A350 sales as it does on the 787 sales. But the point is that Airbus’s overall profitability of the combined programs is improved and they have good coverage in the 250-350 segment for the next several years.

          With the A339, Airbus is not under pressure to heavily discount the A359 to match the needs of the customers. EI’s route network doesn’t warrant the capability of the A359, so if they require the A339, Airbus shouldn’t have any problem selling the latter to them. The A350 slot can be sold to a customer who values the better capability, or wants the bigger variant for a higher margin.

          And keep in mind, BOTH, the A350 and the 787 are still the future. Once production costs are stabilized, backlog reduced and improvements applied, the A330neo will gradually fade away. The “stealing” of sales is rather a short term thing.

      • Could you try to explain the problem you see here: “so much for the A330 NEO and the A350 not stealing orders from each other”? I can not see any problem for Airbus as long as the order will go from Airbus to Airbus. As long as Airbus makes more profit on an A330 than on an A350 I can see no problem?

        “Return on investment” is not a valid point in this case. The A350 is for the coming decades. The A330 is making profit today. On the long run you can ruin any company just by just pimping quarterly figures.

        The upgrade from 787-8 to 787-10 might be OK for an airline with traffic growth but what about routes where 250 seats are hard to sell even in the future? Several of ANA’s 787-9 will fly on domestic routes? What happens when JAL offers such service with an A330-300R? Which airline will make more profit? What about an A330-400R with the fuselage of an A340-400 and without derated engines of an A330?

        • One model is an all new model (say a Tesla X) that is efficiency competitive with the best the industry has to offer and accordingly has a high profit margin because of it efficiency. The other model is a derivative of an old model (say a Prius) that despite having a very good design and an updated power plant cannot be competitive with the industries newest models except for its budget price. Its margin will be thin because it has to compete on price with the latest version. If you are a car company selling only two models, which would you rather sell? Meanwhile your competitor is earning a fat commission on every model he sells and you are cannibalizing your profit margin whenever you push your base model.

        • Nice example with the Tesla X. Didn’t they also have problems with burning batteries?

          I doubt that Tesla has a high profit margin. The batteries alone are rather expensive like the carbon fiber for the new iBMWs.

          The Prius compared to the Tesla X offers one thing: range and a very short stop to extend the range for another 1.200 km. Well, my old diesel have a mileage of 52 or 4.5 liters/100km. Real mileage, not on paper on the fuel bill I have to pay. Maybe the Prius is slightly better but at what upfront price?

          What about spare parts for Tesla X? A Toyota garage is more often.

          “Your” car company has updated a small van because the old model wasn’t selling any more and your competitor was selling his small van like mad. Just some parcel services bought it lately very cheap. Your competitor answered your new van model with a small bus but you didn’t realized that until your costumers bought that bus instead of yours. Now you try to pimp the motor of your old bus and add a better chassis to keep this model alive. Your competitor does also pimp the motor of his old van model but stays with the old chassis to keep the price down.

          Your current line up is
          old van: hardly selling
          new van: selling well but sold to cheap (and problems with production ramp up)
          old bus: hardly selling

          Your competitor’s line up
          old van: still selling
          pimped old van: costumers like the price
          new bus: selling well

          When your pimped bus is ready it is possible that your competitor is already selling a bigger new bus.

          BTW we should talk about the Tesla X again then were are some cars with more than 100.000 miles driven. I will skip the battery powered cars and will wait for cars with direct methanol fuel cells.

        • Hi Garrett,
          I see the problem from a different perspective:
          * They have the A350 (Tesla X) sold out for MANY years, it is a cheap A330NEO or not making a sell at all.
          * Maybe they will have to discount an A330NEO more than an A350, but even so they will have a premium over the A300 CEO and they are cheaper to produce because all the R&D and tooling is completely amortized

  9. I doubt the 250-seat business will be the focus of the future. There are physics at work that will leave the 300-seater always being more desirable than the 250-seater in terms of cost. Further, the ultra-long range is covered well. Who needs another 8000nm aircraft when most trips happen below 4000nm?

    I would see a chance for the A350-800 as downsized aircraft, using the shorter fuselage with a significantly smaller wing and being optimized for 3000-5000nm trips.

  10. Why does it matter that they can fit the rework into their timeline? There’s still no demand for it.

    A short/medium-range A330neo would be a smarter use of R&D funds, both because of the ease with integrating into existing fleets and to keep costs down.

  11. Who says Airbus needs to launch a new airplane to combat the Boeing 737RS? If Boeing can compete with a plane that’s originally from 1960’s there’s no reason Airbus cannot compete with 1980’s design against anything Boeing throws at them. Put a new wing and engines on this “A320 Ultra” and it will sell thousands.

  12. given conventional wisdom regarding CF weight benefits for fuselage and wings not scaling for narrowbodies, or rather the absolute weight benefits not making a sufficient operating cost case for the extra capital costs when compared to a modern optimized Al or Al-Li structure for the tube and wing, the 3 remaining heavyweight structures are the engines, pylons and landing gear.

    Engines are systematically incorporating more and more composites every generation, so that problem will solve itself.

    Pylons are relatively simple structures that ought to lend themselves well to composites not to mention the vibration damping properties of carbon pylons would reduce cabin NVH issues.

    Landing gear in particular seems an attractive target for a wholesale redesign using CF components and regenerative breaking/e-taxi mechanisms replacing the current huge quantities of steel, titanium and magnesium and thrown away breaking energy.

    other targets of opportunity would be things like doors which are of a size that many of the manufacturing challenges associated with composites are minimized.

  13. Are the A350’s composite fuselage skin panels cost ad weight effective compared to metal one? Could they be beneficially applied to a third generation A320?

  14. If the A350-800 is not “good” and the A330neo is worse than the A350-800, how can the A330neo be successful?

  15. Meanwhile, in news from models that are actually selling to customers across a range of sizes, United converted -8 options to 787-10’s. The upgauged 787 models are selling quite well with top tier customers.

    Dithering about what will happen with a nascent/cancelled unpopular/non-optimized smaller sibling in 10 years won’t make it competitive.

  16. Some truth there.

    One of the items being brushed off is RR is going to do a GTF after 2020. Why would you do an aircraft of any type (new or NEO) with existing tech (more exotic materials and hotter) when a large jump in efficiency is in the offering?

    I also do not believe the 757 is on anyone’s radar (at least in the original 757 form), its become an urban legend and fanned on because some small Stan coutnry said it was going to happen people got all excited about it again (right after they canceled airplanes they can’t afford, hmmm, variation of bait and switch attention)

    Boeing has two critical needs and I see it as the following priority.

    1. 737RS. Dated, single engine offering, can’t compete with the A321 at all. That is verging on if not at crisis level. The only reason they are in the game at all is availability. If Airbus ramps up or the demand drops the 737Max is going to take the hit.
    Airbus would have a hard decision at that point and it depends on what form Boeing does it
    in if a further A320 variant could compete (Boeing mini twin aisle then its game on)

    2. A330CEO (regional) and A330NEO: If the market for that combo is big enough, Boeing grand strategy of boxing in Airbus will be (is) an abysmal failure. Boeing only consolation is that the 777X has zero competition and they can get what they want for it.
    On the other hand if Boeing does not have a competitive product at the low end then Airbus owns that segment.
    I think Boeing has a plan and is throwing a lot of mis-leading information out there which means it will not be any of the ones they have mentioned (or we have to believe that Boeing engineers could not do the basic calculations and see what Airbus could do with the A330 and I
    do not buy that, the engineers are good, its management that is lame.

    Boeing has options in a 787 variant and or a 767, but the 767 likely would need a new wing, engine and fuselage lightening and how far is that from a new aircraft?

    And the other huge questions is does Boeing stick exclusively with GE in the future and does GE get in gear (pun intended) and get a GTF up and running?

  17. I think the future of the A350-800 might depend mainly on whether costs of composites come down enough or not. A medium range WB is more a trade off of extra weight verses capital costs. If composites stay expensive an optimised “800” won´t be the answer, maybe a return to the A350 mk 1 with Al or LiAl and composite wing? Originally Airbus claimed the 330 NEO to be only good for 400-500 sales. Sounds like something is on the back-burner for early next decade.

    • History repeating – just like the 767-200, the 787-8 is quickly overtaken in popularity by its larger siblings. (That would be singular “sibling” for the 767, obviously.)

      • siblings 767-200ER [up to 395,000 lbs MTOW] , 767-300, 767-300ER [412,000 lbs] , plus the runt of the litter, the nearly-forgotten 767-400ER. (its principal legacy to the Boeing family is the raked wingtips used ever since on subsequent models). Also cousins 767-300F and KC-46A

    • There could be another reason for these upgrades. The deliveries for the -8 were expected for 2017 and 2018. The -10 will be delivered after 2018.

      Boeing is not so well up with the 787 delivery schedule. Maybe United will get the -10 upgrade for free as a compensation for late delivery and other airlines will get their 787 on time.

      How many 787 upgrades are linked to a later delivery and not just to a bigger aircraft?

      • There could be another reason for these upgrades. The deliveries for the -8 were expected for 2017 and 2018. The -10 will be delivered after 2018.

        Deferring orders wouldn’t necessitate ordering a larger variant.

      • If Boeing is still delivering 787s slower then promised recently, some relief in the backlog probably isn’t unwelcome..

  18. Makes sense for them, -8 suits some for route proving but then you need to upsize as the market changes. Good one for tour operators (if the price is right!)

    I think Air India will regret not having a mix of -9s

    • Air India has still several -8s on order. Therefore I think they could upsize these remaining aircraft. Maybe the price for the -8s deal is unbeatable today and for the -9 Air India would have to pay todays price.

      The A330R/NEO could also be a nice option for Air India.

      • I doubt Air India can make a decision that fast, or see further than two days behind them. Sad fall for another previously good Airline.

  19. Add a twist, if Airlines start to route aroudn conflict areas rather than fly over them, that puts the ball back in the longer range aircraft court.

    • Use Google Earth. Even an A330-300CEO can travel around Russia from Paris to Tokyo. To avoid small countries with conflicts the extension is rather marginal. No need to order different aircraft due to conflicts.

      How many conflicts are there where one party operates an air defense system like the BUK that can reach the upper flight levels?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *