All photos courtesy of Airbus
After nearly a decade of development and a last-minute delay, Airbus has handed over its newest widebody aircraft to Qatar’s national carrier – the A350 XWB.
The airplane was supposed to be delivered earlier this month, but the ceremony was abruptly postponed. Yesterday, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker explained that the issue involved one of Airbus’ suppliers, and not the France-based plane maker itself.
Speaking at the handover ceremony in Toulouse, Al Baker said the delivery of the A350 signified a milestone for the aviation industry:
“The day has finally come,” he said. “Today quite simply marks a design of the decade. It has been forecasted that there will not be a brand-new aircraft type developed for another 10 years from now.”
Al Baker added that Qatar Airways’ order for 80 of the A350 airplanes seven years ago was the catalyst that prompted Airbus to design the planes in the first place.
The A350 will take its maiden commercial flight from Doha to Frankfurt on Jan. 15, 2015, according to Airline Route.
The airline is then expected to begin flying its A350s on routes to the US East Coast, USA Today reports.
Built primarily from carbon fiber, the A350 is touted by Airbus as 25 percent more fuel efficient than its long-range competitor, the 254-seater Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
The planes can also accommodate more passengers than the Dreamliner. The A350-900s ordered by Qatar Airways contain 315 seats, while the -1000 model can hold 369 passengers.
The cabins are expected to be roomier, with 18-inch wide seats in economy, extra headroom, wider panoramic windows and larger overhead storage spaces.
Qatar Airways has ordered 43 of the -900 model and a further 37 of the larger -1000 type. The latter model is not due to enter service until 2017.
Al Baker previously told reporters that after the first A350 delivery, the airline expects to receive nine aircraft by next year, followed by one a month in 2016 and two each month in 2017.
Each A350-900 is estimated to cost around $277.7 million.
In September, the national carrier also took delivery of its first A380 aircraft, the largest passenger jet in the world.
But that super-jumbo has faced diminishing interest from airlines worldwide, raising the possibility that Airbus will discontinue it as early as 2018.