The new Airbus wide body aircraft is bigger and a lot more efficient

Shishir Sinha | Updated on January 24, 2018

Not just fuel savings, the A350 XWB offers a superior flying experience too

The battle for the skies could well be decided on the basis of width rather than height. Airbus’ direct competitor to Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner — the A350 XWB — has not just a wider body but also bigger seats.

“There is recognition that people are getting larger,” a senior executive of the Europe-based aircraft maker told me during a guided tour of the A350 division at its Toulouse plant in France in May 2012. “That is why we need to provide improved comfort in all classes.” XWB stands for extra wide body aircraft. On January 7, I got the opportunity to see the aircraft again, ready for takeoff in Qatar Airways’ livery from the new Al Hamad airport in Doha. Entering the flight, the first thing that struck me was that the Airbus executive was right.

Comfortable seating

The seats in the economy class were arranged in the 3-3-3 configuration and each seat was 18 inches wide.

The key difference here is that there were nine seats in a row, all offering comfortable seating space. Usually, other aircraft have a maximum of eight seats. Qatar Airways’ new Airbus A350 XWB will start operations from January 15.

The XWB is made of carbon fibre plastic polymer and already 41 customers have placed orders for 778 aircraft. But what else is new? “The system is simple, it is reliable. And more simple means, there is minimum maintenance and maximum reliability,” says Mark Bausor, A350 XWB Marketing Director.

Akbar Al Baker, Group CEO of Qatar Airways, feels that the new aircraft is the “most technologically advanced”.

Fresher cabin air

Another feature is air freshness. An aircraft’s cabin environment is controlled, but rotation of fresh air takes some time. Due to this, even a two-hour flight can sap a passenger.

The A350 has a system which changes air in the cabin every two-three minutes. Over half of the material used in the body is composite.

This can lower fuel consumption by nearly a quarter. Since fuel accounts for 20-30 per cent of the total operational cost of an aircraft (In India, it goes up to 40 per cent due to higher taxes), the use of more composite material could help contribute 5-7 per cent in overall savings.

The A350 XWB offers 276-369 seats with its three passenger versions: A350-800, A350-900 and A350-1000. The Business Class has 36 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, featuring an 80-inch full flat bed and 17-inch HD in-flight entertainment screen.

However, flyers in India will have to wait as there is no Indian carrier in the first 41 customers scheduled to get the aircraft. A trip to Europe via Qatar is right now the only way to experience the new aircraft.

The author was in Doha at the invitation of Qatar Airways

Published on January 13, 2015

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