Airbus: long-range A350 flights a niche market with premium price

Airbus: long-range A350 flights a niche market with premium price

Not sure you want to spend 20 hours on a non-stop Qantas flight from Sydney to London or Melbourne to New York?

You'll have no argument from Airbus, with the company behind the globe-striding ultra-long range A350 agreeing this is a very much a "niche market".

“Ultra-long haul is a complicated beast, it is a niche market," Iain Grant, Airbus' vice-president for the Pacific region, admitted to Australian Business Traveller during a media briefing in Sydney.

"Do you really want to be in a seat for 20 hours? How many people would do that? There are mixed views on whether you are willing to go ultra-long haul or not, but we definitely see that as more of a premium market."

All the same, Airbus is tossing its hat into the long-distance ring as Qantas plots direct flights from 2022 from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to London, New York and potentially Brazil and Capetown.

“We are very excited about the Sydney-London project," Grant says. "We are heavily involved with all of the teams (at Qantas). We are bringing in our A350-900ULR which is going to do the Sydney-London mission and we are very comfortable with that, and we will continue to work with them to meet their requirements."

Airbus is up against Boeing's 777X – specifically the 777-8 – in what Qantas has dubbed 'Project Sunrise', with both companies working to extend the range of their respective jets to meet Qantas' demands while also carrying around 300 passengers, which the airline has pegged as the magic number for maximum revenue over these long range routes.

The A350-900ULR is the same long-legged jet which Singapore Airlines will use to restart non-stop flights to New York and Los Angeles in the second half of 2018 – using a premium two-class configuration tipped to be business class and premium economy – and is also on the radar of Air New Zealand for direct flights between Auckland and New York.

However, Grant wouldn't be drawn on the likelyhood of Airbus resurrecting plans for the smaller Airbus A350-800 as a "compact" ultra-long range jet for Qantas and other potential ULR customers.

"We don’t want to comment on our particular discussions with (Qantas)," Grant said. "We are very happy with the A350-900ULR that is coming out.”

Earlier this week Qantas CEO Alan Joyce – in London for the opening of the airline's new London Heathrow lounge – told Flightglobal that Airbus was "saying they may" consider an A350-800ULR if the A350-900ULR couldn't make the distance.

Airbus originally offered the A350 in three versions – the -800, -900 and -1000 – but put the A350-800 on ice due to lack of interest from airlines.

A similar fate befell the Boeing 787-300, although some see the seeds of the littlest Dreamliner-that-never-was could flower into the Boeing 797, which Qantas is eyeing for domestic and possibly Asian flights from the mid-2020s.

David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.
 

24 comments

  • Dale

    Dale

    30 Nov, 2017 04:32 pm

    Yes Please I'll be in that. Get in at EL out at LHR. But it will depend on comfort, I can't imagine doing it in economy, PE or better still business. But I would imagine that they will want a premium for it.
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  • Agfox

    Agfox

    30 Nov, 2017 05:52 pm

    Interesting article, thanks, David - but the last 4 paras appear to have been repeated...
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  • David Flynn

    David

    30 Nov, 2017 05:54 pm

    1. Ooops - rapid-fire editing mistake!
    2. But they're really nice paragraphs, what's wrong with reading them a second time? :P
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  • Agfox

    Agfox

    30 Nov, 2017 06:00 pm

    Nothing, I read them twice & enjoyed them both times...lol
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    David

  • drgmarshall

    drgmarshall

    30 Nov, 2017 06:49 pm

    I can't wait. What's not to love about lazing about on a plane in J (minimum) for 20 hour? Me time to the max! No phone, no stress, great booze, plenty of TV to catch up on.
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  • David Flynn

    David

    1 Dec, 2017 08:52 am

    Perhaps Qantas should market these flights as the "Bingefest Express"..?
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  • Jacksonrt26

    Jacksonrt26

    30 Nov, 2017 11:58 pm

    Correct me if I’m missing something but why would Qantas need an ULR aircraft to fly to Cape Town? The distance between Cape Town and Sydney is 11,000 kilometres. The range of the 787 is 14,800.
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  • FLX

    FLX1

    1 Dec, 2017 02:55 pm

    @Jacksonrt26:
    "Correct me if I’m missing something but why would Qantas need an ULR aircraft to fly to Cape Town?"
    I'm guessing U're probably missing the followings:

    1. Costly ULR hardwares in QF fleet, either in the form of 359ULR or 778, will be deployed on a few non-ULH routes in addition to ULH routes to maximize capital utilization /minimize time on the tarmac not generating Rev$...if for no other reasons. It's similar to why NZ deploy a 777 frequency on AKL-BNE which could hv been 320 x2 frequencies instead.

    2. For routes like SYD-CPT, QF may project its mkt size is way too small for 484seats on 380 yet is a bit bigger than 236seats on 789. 744ER is probably near optimal size for SYD-CPT today but it clearly won't be around for long in the nex decade.

    3. Load up a ULR aircraft with only fuel+pax & bags and deploy it on 19~20hrs sectors is not the only way to fully utilize its performance limit. QF can also fill up the belly of a 359ULR/778 with Rev$ cargo along with full pax load but such total payload will yield far less range and suitable only for shorter routes like SYD->CPT(and classics like LAX->MEL) where no one can offer any significant nonstop cargo lift today between S.Africa and AU. At full payload(not just pax load), a 789 can reach no where near 14,800km....more like 10,000km against headwind on westbound vector.


    But for QF to fly SYD-CPT, U are still right that nex gen ULR types are not the key. CASA cooperation re ETOPS rules is.
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  • GregXL

    GregXL

    1 Dec, 2017 12:19 am

    How can an A350/800 be a 300 passenger ULR aircraft, given it would be smaller than a 789 ?
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  • David Flynn

    David

    1 Dec, 2017 08:55 am

    Well that's the thing, isn't it – Airbus rates the A350-800 for "276 passengers in a typical three-class cabin", so some compromises going to have to be made if an A350-800ULR becomes a reality.
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  • FLX

    FLX1

    1 Dec, 2017 03:22 pm

    @David:
    "Airbus rates the A350-800 for "276 passengers in a typical three-class cabin"
    Actually per the more updated Airbus cabin spec assumptions, not even 3-class but only 2-class and still assuming 60inches seat pitch in J(i.e. enough space only for inclined/ski slope lie-flat seat design):

    This is despite current cabin assumptions for 290seats on Boeing 789 brochures already included horizontal flatbed with direct aisle access for every J seat which consumes far more space than the J seat on Airbus brochure.

    "some compromises going to have to be made if an A350-800ULR becomes a reality."
    I would go further and say significant compromise by QF if 358 is the way to go. In terms of usable cabin floor area, a 358 sits somewhere between a 788/332 and a 789/333....a pretty large down-gauge fm 359ULR, let alone 778.
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  • David Flynn

    David

    1 Dec, 2017 04:28 pm

    Not sure you've got a "more updated" spec there FLX1, considering my "276 passengers in three class cabin" comes from the Airbus website while the image you've linked is labelled "FlightGlobal 2010"...
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  • JakeDrake

    JakeDrake

    1 Dec, 2017 10:08 am

    Reading between the lines of this and other Airbus comments on Qantas' Project Sunrise plans, AIrbus' position seems to be the standard A350-900ULR is basically all Airbus will offer and won't commit to much than that to meet the Qantas demands of full payload, passengers and extended range. Sunrise is a niche within a niche.
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    David

  • Timmy22bc

    Timmy22bc

    1 Dec, 2017 11:47 am

    Qantas are just greedy in this regard, ULH should be aimed at less people for a higher price. Other factors such as restroom comfort, catering and general customer hygiene need to be considered, instead of just $$$.


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  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    1 Dec, 2017 12:11 pm

    Yes i agree. I think the way SQ plan with J and W seats making it like 200 people max on A359ulr it covers those who can't afford J without compromising on too much space. Personally i would only ever do in J but W is workable for people who can sleep in an upright seating position.
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  • David Flynn

    David

    1 Dec, 2017 04:30 pm

    On a purely person basis I'd tend to agree with suggestions that a premium config - four proper first class suites, a stack of business class seats and a slew of premium economy seats with decent legroom - would be the way to go. Of course, none of us have the mighty spreadsheet which Qantas would be using to determine profitability.
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  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    1 Dec, 2017 07:51 pm

    I can accept that there would be no F but what is unacceptable is any form of Y seating...also W should be provided with 42inch pitch and not 38...
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  • Lifestobelived

    Lifestobelived

    1 Dec, 2017 06:43 pm

    I think I said before Qantas can bully government's here in Australia in to getting their own way, doesn't mean they can put out demands for small numbers of planes and get everything they want from global aircraft manufacturers... We'll see...
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  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    1 Dec, 2017 07:49 pm

    lol they pretending to be like EK and the A380
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  • Robert Proctor

    robproct

    2 Dec, 2017 10:08 am

    QANTAS is testing the market with the ULH PPH/LHR and would be wise to see the response to that before expanding to SYD/LHR. The unknown is the demand for a premium service. I'm sure QANTAS is doing serious research on that and watching PPH/LHR uptake after the novelty of that service has worn off.
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  • Scott Brown

    DownSouth

    2 Dec, 2017 11:29 am

    300 seats is a lot to fill daily if it’s only BUS and PE.
    If it’s something like 100 Bus and 200 PE they are eye watering high numbers to fill.
    PE on a normal configuration A350 would be approx 21-28 seats.
    So the Qantas ULH 300 seater demanded replaces Y with approx 175 PE seats(200-25 average config) (normally sold at 2.5 times a Y seat) so that’s the equilivant to approx 400 Y seats in revenue.
    Seams greedy as one poster noted, the Singapore config around 200 total seams more realistic request to demand of the manufacturer.
    And a more realistic seat config for ULH for passenger comfort not only $$$$$

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  • twkgill

    twkgill

    4 Dec, 2017 06:54 pm

    I wonder how crew (cabin and pilots) rotations will work? Will they need 3 x 8hr shifts? Is in-flight rest considered good enough to work that long on a flight?

    Anyone know how it works on the Perth-London route? The 787 has 6 beds for cabin crew and 2 for pilot rest which is seemingly good enough for 17hrs. Will the extra 3hrs make a difference?
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  • paulbnz

    paulbnz

    4 Dec, 2017 07:00 pm

    It's Cape Town, not Capetown!
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  • chap6595

    chap6595

    5 Dec, 2017 04:56 pm

    Surely if they are buying the 787 they would buy the 777-8/9 as they are the same family?
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