According to a report by Alex Macheras, Airbus may be considering an extended range version of its brand new A350-1000. Utilizing the same naming strategy as its smaller sister, the A350-900 Ultra Long Range (ULR), the proposed A350-1000ULR could reportedly compete with Boeing’s delayed 777X. Here, we explore the demand for aircraft capable of ultra long-range operations and the A350-1000ULR.
Although there is no universally accepted definition of an ultra-long-haul flight, it is agreed that any flight longer than twelve hours fulfills this classification.
While some passengers may prefer a stop-over during a long journey, many are attracted by the simplicity of a singular flight. Indeed, according to a 2012 survey by CWT, journey length and indirect flights are some of the highest stress factors impacting business travelers.
Given passenger preferences, and the logistics and liabilities involved with connecting itineraries, many airlines have turned to ultra-long-haul flights. Not only have such flights been a way to better serve passengers but have also provided a novel means of increasing growth.
Though airlines such as Singapore and Air Canada once offered 12-hour plus segments from Asia to North America, utilizing the A340-500 and 777-200LR respectively, aircraft limitations and economics eventually put an end to these endeavors. With new composite technologies and ever more efficient aircraft, however, ultra-long-haul has once again become en vogue.
Like the A350-900ULR, which can travel 9,700 nautical miles compared to the standard 8,100nm, the supposed 1000ULR model should have an increased range over its existing 8,700nm capabilities.
Key to the 1000ULR’s success, however, will be Airbus’s ability to increase, or at least maintain, the 1000’s maximum takeoff weight. Indeed, not only will the aircraft have to carry additional fuel to carry out its ultra-long-haul operations, but will have to do so while carrying an economically viable amount of passengers and their baggage.
While details of the 1000ULR are extremely sparse in these early days, one could hope that the aircraft will be able to accommodate 350-410 passengers, like the standard 1000 variant, on routes over 9000nm.
With the unfortunate end to the A380 program approaching, Airbus is likely to offer its proposed ultra-long range, high capacity, twin-jet to existing super jumbo carriers.
Admittedly, the A350-1000 does not have the sheer capacity to match the A380. Take British Airways, for example. It’s A380’s can accommodate 469 passengers in four classes while it’s new A350-1000s only boards 331 in three.
Though capacity may not be matched, the operating economics of twin-jets, combined with the difficulties many carriers might have in filling the gigantic plane, not to mention the challenges A380s face at airports, could make the A350-1000ULR an attractive replacement for the quad-jet.
Just as importantly for Airbus, though, the introduction of an A350-1000ULR may strengthen the carrier’s competitive offerings against Boeing’s 777X. Not only could the repaved A350-1000 increase the model’s range, but also, possibly, increase its maximum takeoff weight.
Although the details of the A350-1000ULR are currently speculative, an Airbus spokesperson told Simple Flying that as a leading aircraft manufacturer, the company is always looking at ways to develop its existing products.
So, what do you think of the A350-1000 ULR? Who do you think would be interested in the A350-1000ULR? Will the aircraft successfully compete with the 777X? Let us know in the comments.