Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker commented to journalists at the ITB tourism fair in Berlin that he was told by Airbus that the smallest variant of its new A350 plane wouldn’t see the light of day and dropped his order, a claim the manufacturer disputes.
Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker
Meanwhile, Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath said in a statement that the A350-800 remains a “key member of the A350 family”.
Qatar, the first customer that will receive the first 4 A350 XWB in 2014, pulled out of its order for 20 A350-800s in December and switched into a bigger model. Airbus said at the time that dropping the smallest of its three A350 variants would leave it with an unprotected flank against Boeing ’s 787 Dreamliner.
Airbus had 92 A350-800 aircraft on its order book at the end of January, compared with 395 of the 314-seat A350-900, the main variant which is also slated to be the first to enter service in late 2014. Airbus has also sold 105 of its 350-seat A350-1000, a 350-seat long-haul jet expected to enter service in 2017.
Aircraft experts say the trend is towards larger airplanes within certain size categories to cope with increased traffic. Airlines can fly larger planes more cheaply if they can fill them -- but have to balance this against the risk of leaving empty seats while the larger plane consumes more fuel.
Until now, industry sources have reported little evidence that the A350-800 will be cancelled outright but many have questioned when it will enter service as Airbus focuses engineering efforts on the larger, more strategic versions.
The A350-800 is officially due to enter service in 2016.
Based on the article “Qatar Air Says A350-800 Has No Future as Airbus Vows to Proceed” published in Blommberg