Archive For The “A350” Category

Emirates News Dominates Dubai Air Show

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Emirates, as is customary, places orders and makes headlines at the Dubai Air Show. This year is no exception, as the carrier has ordered 40 Boeing 787-10s, and is demanding a production guarantee for the next decade from Airbus prior to ordering additional A380s.

Positive News for Boeing:

The firm order for 40 787-10s from Emirates is good news for Boeing, who secure another major customer for this airframe. While this order has long been anticipated, the finalization cements another type in the Emirates fleet for Boeing, who have already secured a number of orders for the 777-8 and 777-9 from EK. Each of these aircraft will be utilized in missions for which they are optimized.

The 787-10 order is a blow to Airbus, as an order for 70 A350s was cancelled in 2014. Boeing has now won that competition, as the 787 and A350 are similarly sized. In an interview, Tim Clark indicated that over the ranges Emirates planned to utilize the aircraft, the 787-10 had slightly better economics than the A350 in their estimation, although Airbus might disagree. While the 787-10 has a range that is 1,400nm shorter than the A350-900, it has a smaller wing and is lighter, providing more efficiency for shorter-haul routes on which Emirates plans to utilize the aircraft.

Mixed News for Airbus

Airbus was hoping to announce an order for 36 additional A380 aircraft to Emirates. But negotiations are still underway, with Emirates demanding that Airbus continue production of the aircraft for another 10-15 years.

At current rates of less than 1 per month, the A380 order would provide another 4 years of backlog that should enable Airbus to easily continue the aircraft through 2027. One would think a 10 year guarantee would be quite easy to achieve.

But the backlog for the A380 is somewhat deceiving, as a number of order have been deferred substantially and remain at risk of cancellation over the longer-term. Airbus is counting on increasing airport and traffic congestion to fuel additional demand for the A380, but this hasn’t happened yet.

While the growth of traffic at higher rates than infrastructure in China and other areas is continuing, the question is whether this will become critical enough over the next decade to generate orders for the A380. Because smaller aircraft now offer nearly equivalent seat-mile economics with lower aircraft mile costs, the offer less risk to an airline.
If an airline can fill an A380, it is a marvelous and profitable aircraft. But most airlines are quite risk-averse and likely won’t order the A380 until they have little choice due to slot and gate constraints that make large aircraft necessary. It does make sense to consolidate frequencies at London Heathrow and utilize the additional slots for other routes, as infrastructure costs are escalating dramatically. But there aren’t that many airports with Heathrow economics – yet.

It is in the interest of both Airbus and Emirates to come to an agreement on A380 production, and we expect that a deal will get done. But whether that can be done during the Dubai Air Show is another question entirely. Stay tuned, as we expect an agreement will be reached.

The Bottom Line:

Boeing has scored a major victory for the 787-10 over the A350XWB at Emirates. Given that the 787-10 order is for 40, while the cancellation of the A350XWB was for 70 aircraft, there may be further growth potential for Boeing at Emirates.

The influence Emirates wields over the A380 program with Airbus will be tested, as Tim Clark wants 10-15 years of continuing production. Airbus would prefer not to make a long-term commitment to an aircraft that it may not be able to sell a decade from now without an expensive upgrade. Such an upgrade doesn’t appear to make economic sense given the lack of demand for the A380 from customers other than Emirates. While it is in the interest of both Emirates and Airbus to reach an agreement, both parties will need to compromise.

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More insight into A350 program progress

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We did an earlier look at this issue and now we can show more progress.  So far 74 have been delivered.  The table lists these along with the number of days from first flight to delivery.  We list the number of tests flights for each delivery.  On the whole, there has been progress.  The only standout is, surprise, Qatar.  But 2016 was a tough year, with lots of days being burned up even though test flights had declined.

If we look at customers with multiple deliveries over three years or more, we have three.  The next charts list these and it seems, even with Qatar, Airbus has moved down the learning curve.  There are fewer test flights and, generally, the number of days has also gone down. So Airbus is making progress on the program.

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Premium – A Fleet Review of Air France/KLM

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Air France and KLM merged in 2004.  The joint company has hubs in Amsterdam and Paris.  Because of their long histories in aviation, these two airlines have a reach to every corner of the globe.  Both companies have numerous subsidiaries that cover regional and cargo services.  In this analysis, we only looked at the mainline passenger fleets.

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Flying on Finnair’s A350-900

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Impressions of Finnair’s A350 Business Class

The A350 XWB has been touted by Airbus and its operating airlines as representing a significant step forward when it comes to the passenger experience.

Does it live up to the expectations? With nearly 50 of the type already in service it was about time we gave it a try.

So when Finnair offered us to test theirs, we did not need to think it twice. We hopped on a flight between Helsinki and Hong Kong to see for ourselves what the hype is all about.

Helsinki Airport

But first of all, and before we get on-board of the A350 itself, a few words about Helsinki airport. As Finnair’s transit hub between Europe and Asia, and, as of the time of writing this article, a major A350 base, it plays a major role in the overall passenger experience.

And, in fact, it did not disappoint, Helsinki airport is at that sweet spot, where, without being gigantic (with the implications for walking and waiting times at choke points), it is large enough to have plenty to keep you going in terms of shops, lounges and other facilities.

The Lounge

The Helsinki airport experience is, of course, significantly enhanced if you happen to travel business class on Finnair.

The lounge at the non-Schengen section of the airport has quite a few interesting details.

Besides the sleeping pods and ergonomic armchairs with runway views, the highlight is the wellness area that includes…well, you guess…a proper Finnish sauna.


Spotlessly clean, private changing cabins with shower, complimentary toiletries, towels and slippers…I happened to be the only one around at that time, so it really felt like at home.

It helps you get to the plane relaxed and ready for some in-flight sleep during the long night flight to East Asia.

The Flight

And, shortly before midnight, the time arrived to board the object of our trip: Finnair’s A350-900.

Here are some pictures of the business class cabin:

As you can see, a 1-2-1 configuration with pod-like seats that can be made into flat beds.

Finnish design was present in the form of a Marimekko toiletries bag. Nice touch.

It is a pity that the images can not transmit the smell of new that pervaded the cabin!

IFE

As you would expect in a state of the art aircraft the seat is perfectly equipped for the connected era

A large foldable screen, sockets to recharge your phone and on-board broadband (it work fine during the whole trip, although I did not attempt to use any of the most data-heavy applications such as streaming, I had no issues uploading some pictures, browsing a number of websites and going about my usual internet activities).

It was a nice surprise to find out that flight tracking is provided by FlightPath3D.

The Bose headphones were also pretty solid – providing excellent isolation from cabin noise and good sound quality.

To be honest, the movie selection was not exactly huge, neither did it feature top blockbusters. But, with excellent internet connectivity available throughout the flight, I guess this becomes less of an issue, since, just like me, many people devote quite a big share of their awake time using their own electronic gadgets.

Food

When it comes to the food, Finnair really nailed it. Both my A350 flights were during the night, so, on both we got dinner and breakfast. What can I say? I am not a culinary critic, but food was, frankly, excellent.

Oh, and Finnair even came up with a special drink for the A350!

Service

Another thing worth noting is how seriously Finnair takes its focus on Asian markets. For example, pretty much all crew on board our flight were bilingual English-Chinese (plus most of them speak Finnish I guess, I did not test that), as were all the announcements and in-flight communications. This is a strategy that has also its equivalent on the ground with similar efforts on the side of Finavia, the Finnish airport operator.

Overall impression

I am not sure whether it was the sauna I had just before my flight, the great food or the quietness of the A350-900, but it might have been the time I managed to sleep for longer than in any business class I have experienced before.

Thumbs up!

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Getting to 10,000 deliveries

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Today Airbus delivered it’s 10,000 airplane.  It is an A350-900 for Singapore Airlines making this is a big day for Airbus.

Airbus made its first delivery in 1974.  It took a lot of confidence to create the company from a number of small European-based aerospace firms and cobble these parts into one group with one vision; break into an American dominated industry,   In the process other EU-based aerospace firms that were not part of the Airbus combine were left to wither mercilessly – like Fokker and Dornier along with others – which was awkward because these brands were great and had been delivering credible aircraft. The nation-state shareholders had a vision and were not going to allow anything to get in the way of that.

Nation-state shareholders also came with baggage.  Airbus also had to overcome the nationality-based “balance” between the Germans and French.  Then throw British and Spanish interests to add to the mix and make things even more interesting.  With initial shareholders being nations, one can imagine what levels of interference managers had to overcome with every election in these four countries.   Every big decision had to be “balanced” – all the while America firms had to merely satisfy shareholders with earnings.

But an advantage Airbus had was that nation states can afford to be patient.  Far more patient than shareholders who want performance every quarter.  The EU states helped enable and create what is Airbus today – a public company with no obvious nation-state meddling.   Although, as we have seen these same states can be annoying customers of the A400M.

The chart below shows how long it took for Airbus to reach this important event.  For comparison look how long it took Boeing.  We list the 10,000th delivery for both.

Meanwhile the other big names in commercial aviation that Airbus had to compete with, like McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed have all disappeared.  It may have taken Airbus longer to reach 10,000 than Boeing.  But, as Airbus Group President Tom Enders noted “It took us 19 years to deliver the first 1000th aircraft and now only 19 months to deliver the last 1000.”  Airbus climbed the learning curve well.

Look at these numbers in another way, and you can see Airbus is chasing Boeing – and catching up.  While the order race between the two is the fight that gets most attention, the delivery race is more important.

The battle between Airbus and Boeing forces both firms to keep operating at peak performance.  Airlines and lessors like this, a lot. And every air traveler is a beneficiary.

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The Super Twin Battle – Revisited

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In 2013, we published an article on, and coined the phrase,  the Super Twins, the A350-1000 and 777-9.  Since that time, the market has continued to evolve, with these aircraft becoming viable alternatives to larger four-engined very large aircraft in many markets.  With the 787-9 and A350-900 now in service, and the 787-10, A330neo, and A350-1000 soon to enter service, it is time to revisit this segment.

Right Sizing Aircraft
For many airlines, the mantra today is right sizing aircraft for specific markets, and ensuring that they can fill an aircraft, particularly for the US oligopoly in which capacity constraints are a competitive option.   In the wide-body category, they have a variety of choices.  From Boeing, the 787 now comes in three sizes, with the latest model, the -10, squarely in the 300-400 seat class.  From Airbus, the choice is technology level between the high technology A350 and the lower technology A330neo, with new engines and competitive performance at a lower price than the A350. (more…)

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