Airlines set to receive Airbus A350s in 2019
The Airbus A350 is proving to be a great aircraft for Airbus and airlines that have ordered them. 2018 was an impressive year for the aircraft, with the first A350-1000 being handed over to Qatar Airways and the first A350-900ULR being delivered and commencing the world’s longest flight with Singapore Airlines.
Airbus squeezed out 14 additional aircraft from their production line in 2018 compared to 2017, as seen in the table below. The Beluga XL, which is currently undergoing its flight test campaign, will commence operations this year, leaving Airbus with greater room for A350 production as well as other models. This is dependent on how quickly they restore their Premium Aerotec facility in Augsburg, Germany which recently suffered from a large fire.
2019 will be an impressive year for airlines and Airbus as the A350 climbs into the hands of more airlines. The following lineup of airlines will provide you with some basic information about their order and plans.
British Airways will greet their first of 18 A350-1000s ordered in July of this year. The cabin will feature three classes, consisting of Club World business, World Traveler Plus premium economy and World Traveler economy.
November 2018 saw confirmation from the airline that no first class seats would be installed, however the Club World business seating would be an all new design, featuring direct aisle access, improved privacy and greater storage.
By the end of 2019, only four A350-1000s with the new seating will be flying with the airline. To compensate for the short aircraft figure, two Boeing 777s will receive the upgrades as well as the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners set to arrive.
28 A350-900s have been ordered by Air France, however the figures are interesting with KLM’s plans (or lack of) with their A350s and rumors that the plug is set to be pulled for Joon.
What makes this complicated is Air France expects to receive their first seven A350-900s during the second half of 2019, however they’re destined for Joon. Will Joon still be around? If not, will Air France take them or will the order be deferred?
The ultimate plan was to send 10 to Joon and 11 to Air France, but as mentioned, the view is blurry and not all information is firm at this time.
Japan Airlines plans to replace their entire fleet of Boeing 777s with the Airbus A350. In 2013, the airline placed an order for eighteen A350-900s and thirteen A350-1000s with options for an additional 25 aircraft. This was a significant order for Airbus as it was the first Airbus order for Japan Airlines as well as the first A350 order within Japan.
A lot has progressed since then with the airline choosing their suppliers for wheels and brakes as well as being the first airline to operate the A350 with the full code ‘A350-942’ rather than the ‘941’ we’ve seen on all other A350s.
Information states these frames are derated and will be operating domestic routes. Although information is to be confirmed, the maximum takeoff weight for these aircraft is said to be 210t and will allow for many more flight cycles.
First delivery is expected to occur in June, with the airline potentially displaying their first aircraft at the Paris Air Show.
Despite the large growth in air travel, Japan Airlines has stated firmly that there is no reason to select an aircraft bigger than the A350-1000, ruling out any chance of the Boeing 777X and Airbus A380 anytime soon, unlike their competitor, All Nippon Airways (ANA).
The following video is from 2013 when the airline placed the order:
Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
A small order, but a significant aircraft. Scandinavian Airlines, commonly known as SAS, has eight A350-900s on order, with the first set to arrive this year. Additionally, the airline has options for six more aircraft within their order.
Each aircraft will be fitted with 308 seats, which when broken down in their configuration, will see 36 in business, 32 in SAS Plus Premium and 240 in SAS Go economy.
Information is subject to change, however business class is currently listed to be configured in a 60 inch 2-2-2 configuration, with premium economy at 36 inches in a 2-4-2 configuration and economy in a 31/32 inch 3-3-3 configuration.
First delivery should occur late this year.
The first A350-1000 for Virgin Atlantic was spotted in Toulouse towards the end of 2018 with no engines, no paint and just its Virgin Atlantic branded sharklets.
MSN 274 will be delivered to the airline as G-VLUX during the early stages of 2019, making them the first European airlines to operates the -1000 variant.
To compete with British Airways‘ launch of a new business class, Virgin Atlantic is also following along, with the airline set to unveil a new business class seat at a ceremony before delivery. The seat, dubbed Upper Class, is firm for the A350-1000s, however won’t be meeting the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and Airbus A330s. Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have been extremely cautious about what they say about their new seats in order to retain competitiveness.
Virgin Atlantic will base the aircraft at Gatwick and Heathrow and will assign specific layouts for each of them. The following table details the configurations:
|Airport||Seat Count||Configuration Type|
|London Gatwick||410||High-capacity, all leisure|
|London Heathrow||360||Upper Class Premium Economy and Economy|
Routes for Virgin Atlantic’s A350-1000s have not been announced yet, other than the first will be a key US route.
The order for 12 A350-1000s was made during the 2016 Farnborough Air Show and is valued at $4.4 billion at list prices. Virgin Atlantic will utilize the aircraft to replace their fuel-guzzling fleet of Airbus A340s and Boeing 747s.
An A350-1000 trailer was released by the airline and can be watched here:
Evelop only has a single A350 on order so they best make use of it! Well that’s what was going through their minds when it was decided that 432 seats would be installed. Keep in mind this isn’t an A350-1000, it’s the shorter A350-900.
The aircraft has already been assembled and will undergo painting, cabin fit and engine installation shortly.
— Aviation Toulouse (@Frenchpainter) December 12, 2018
Other than that, there’s not much to add about Evelop, other than the fact that the A350 will be joining their fleet of A330s and A320s.
With Etihad in a poor financial situation, rumors have developed in the aviation industry that the airline is set to cancel all or a significant portion of their A350 order, which consists of 40 A350-900s and 22 A350-1000s.
Despite this, their first A350-1000 is currently undergoing final assembly as MSN 290, making a cancellation an expensive task.
Discussions were said to be ongoing, however not much has come of them (if they did occur). The order for Boeing 777X aircraft is a tricky one too as that aircraft is exceptionally large compared to the A350. With financial woes, would the Boeing 777X be a good choice? Boeing thinks so and reportedly spent a considerable amount of effort convincing the airline not to cancel, but just like the A350s, no real news has come of it.
Praised by passengers and airlines for its exceptional comfort and performance, the A350 is set to shine some more in 2019. Many new airlines, big or small, will receive the aircraft in typical Airbus style, with celebrations, fancy performances and cake before flying off to their new home.
The uncertainty of Etihad is concerning to aviation enthusiasts as its understood the desire to see the new Etihad livery on the A350 is quite high, however for now, until a firm announcement is made, the aircraft will continue making its way through Airbus’ production line.
Where will 2019 take you? Will you get to experience the A350?