The certified maximum seat count for the Airbus A350-1000 has been increased to 480, possibly launching new customer interest for the type.

By working with regulators, and developing a new emergency exit system for the aircraft, Airbus has successfully managed to score an additional 40 in the A350-1000.

Following an Equivalent Safety Finding, launched by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), in June 2019 to review Airbus’ request to increase the maximum seat count of the A350-1000, it was found that the existing Type A emergency exits were not suitable for a larger amount of passengers.

As a result of this review, Airbus elected to develop the Type A+ emergency exit, which features enhanced exit lighting, a dedicated exit sign and most importantly a dual-lane escape slide.

However, if the new Type A+ exit doors are chosen by an airline, EASA says that three flight attendants will have to operate at the door, to ensure a fast and efficient evacuation.

For more on emergency evacuations, check out Sam Chui’s video at the Turkish Airlines training facility:

Safety does come to mind however and Airbus has already simulated scenarios with EASA to ensure safety is never reduced; extensive real-life is also part of the approved increase.

If an airline opts for Type A+ doors, for all doors on the A350-1000, 480 passenger seats can be installed, meaning 120 passengers per emergency exit in a ten-abreast configuration.

The increased seat count will likely see more low-cost and charter airlines approaching Airbus for details; however with one extra flight attendant required per exit door, it could also be a deal breaker due to increased salaries.

Perhaps a stronger sales pitch for the upgrade is the greater competition with the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner and 777X. With the 777X delayed, and based on an older design, the increased capability of the A350-1000 on a clean-sheet design may prove more attractive, especially being 45,000 kilograms lighter at takeoff.

For more on Airbus’ view on the A350 versus Boeing 777X, see their Innovation Days Highlights:

In a two-class configuration, Boeing advertises the 777-9 to seat 426 passengers, however, as development continues, this count might increase.

This upgrade to the A350 isn’t the first over its operational lifetime. Ever since entering service, Airbus has continued to tweak the aircraft in various ways adding to performance and efficiency gains and passenger seating options.

Being an optional add on, rather than a whole-new sub-variant, Airbus can still keep costs low and not worry about not having any customers for the type.

What are your thoughts on this development?