Qantas nixes Airbus A350-900ULR for non-stop flights to UK, New York

Qantas nixes Airbus A350-900ULR for non-stop flights to UK, New York

Qantas has decided against the Airbus A350-900ULR for non-stop flights from Australia to London and New York, and is instead eyeing the larger A350-1000ULR which could carry more passengers on those 18-20 hour treks.

Airbus confirmed plans for an ultra-long range version of its A350-1000 jet in June this year, with Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Eric Schulz telling Australian Business Traveller "we know what we can do with the -900 because that's what is done today with Singapore Airlines, and we (will) also look at what we could do with the -1000."

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce today confirmed that the airline had switched its focus from the A350-900ULR to the stretched A350-1000ULR, although he allowed that Qantas could also order standard A350-900 jets for other shorter routes such as to Asia and North America.

Joyce told news agency Reuters that the competition between the Airbus A350-1000ULR and Boeing's 777-8 has now progressed to the formal Request For Proposal stage.

“We do believe we are at a stage where the capability for both vehicles is there and is a matter of the financials and working through how the business case works,” he said.

Qantas is aiming to see the jet chosen for its ambitious Project Sunrise scheme carry around 300 passengers in four classes – first, business, premium economy and economy, with the option to fit bunk beds, lounges, family rooms and relaxation zones in the cargo hold.

Photos: Here is how Airbus plans to put passengers in the cargo hold

The decision as to which of the two long-legged jets would win Qantas' favour – and a highly prestigious order for what would be the world's longest non-stop flights - will be made next year, with the flights slated to start in 2022.

Read more: Qantas plans non-stop from Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York by 2022

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.
 

35 comments

  • Steve987

    Steve987

    23 Aug, 2018 06:35 pm

    “Qantas is aiming to see the jet chosen for its ambitious Project Sunrise scheme carry around 300 passengers in four classes – first, business, premium economy and economy, with the option to fit bunk beds, lounges, family rooms and relation zones in the cargo hold.”

    Conjugal visitation?!
    Member who gave thanks

    Boogs

  • Brenton Thevarakam

    whoppersandwich

    23 Aug, 2018 07:44 pm

    It’ll be more comfortable than the squeeze into the EK shower!
    Member who gave thanks

    Boogs

  • Richard Foreman

    ptcruiser

    23 Aug, 2018 09:51 pm

    This is great news ! The A350-1000ULR will be just the right size for Qantas, lighter than the 777-8 and with a newer airframe and technology and far more adaptable for other routes and missions especially coupled with the A350-900, as opposed to the 777-8 which will be too niche. Also Airbus have a proven ability to incrementally improve dynamics and performance on all their aircraft so the A350-1000ULR would only get better ! (IMHO)
    Members who gave thanks

    whoppersandwich, Aussie100, Boogs

  • kabe100

    kabe100

    24 Aug, 2018 04:20 pm

    I don't think any ULR aircraft is economically adaptable for medium haul and short haul trips. The best adaptable aircraft is 787-10 as I heard of it from SQ staff. Apperently they really like its ability to switch between short haul and medium haul.
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  • Joe

    Joe

    23 Aug, 2018 10:06 pm

    As soon as Qantas chooses 777 for long/ultra lounge haul that will be the day I say see ya Qantas! I'm not sitting in passenger unfriendly garbage like the 777 for more than 3 hours max.
    Member who gave thanks

    Aussie100

  • John Phelan

    John Phelan

    23 Aug, 2018 10:26 pm

    And a lot of pilots don't want to be sitting in pilot-unfriendly garbage from Airbus!!
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    Simo800

  • Angus  Coventry

    Covo95

    23 Aug, 2018 10:42 pm

    qantas pilots such as my dad hate airbus aircraft.
    Member who gave thanks

    Simo800

  • Packetman21

    Packetman21

    24 Aug, 2018 07:09 am

    I’ve spoken to many Qantas pilots that have flown both manufacturers and they say they are both as good as each other.
    Member who gave thanks

    Aussie100

  • Laydown

    Laydown

    24 Aug, 2018 09:07 am

    With 10 years experience on both Boeing and Airbus, I'd take the Airbus thanks.
    Members who gave thanks

    Aussie100, Boogs

  • John Phelan

    John Phelan

    24 Aug, 2018 07:10 pm

    I always prefer to be on an aircraft flown by a pilot, rather than by a computer which makes it difficult for the pilot to take control. That's basically a difference in the Boeing and Airbus philosophies.
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  • StudiodeKadent

    StudiodeKadent

    23 Aug, 2018 11:36 pm

    I wonder what the 1000-ULR's capabilities are. The jet would certainly be a bit more consistent with the Dreamliner fleet, although the A350 will only be able to take Qantas' Premium Economy seat at 7 across rather than 8 (which will reduce the capacity a bit).

    Personally I was favoring the 777-8 since the same Economy and PE seats could be put in the jet at 10 and 8 abreast respectively, and the current First Suite design could work with a 1-1-1 layout on the jet too. And the 777-9 seems a natural fit for QF as well (as the eventual A380 replacement) but who knows? We know that airlines love to play the manufacturers off each other to get good bargains.

    That said I think the most important thing is to get an idea of the 1000-ULR's capabilities. It worked for SQ but not QF. So let's see what it can do.
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  • Brenton Thevarakam

    whoppersandwich

    24 Aug, 2018 12:29 am

    777s share the same type rating as 787s which will assist with pilot management. There will also be some engine commonality with the GE engines which could also increase fleet efficiency.

    QF have set the bar fairly high for an aircraft that will carry 300 pax, 4 class at distances well in excess of the A350-1000s capability. I simply can’t see the ULR making it all the way without some
    serious sacifices to payload, which would in turn give the 778 an easy win in this round!
    Member who gave thanks

    Simo800

  • Jedinak K

    Jedinak K

    24 Aug, 2018 08:42 am

    The A350 has the same type rating as the A330s and offers familiarity to the A380. The GE engines are also slightly different and the GE9X is a standalone engine (can't be switched to other aircraft types).
    Member who gave thanks

    Aussie100

  • Himeno

    Himeno

    25 Aug, 2018 09:43 pm

    There is nothing stopping the 777X sharing a type rating with the 787. It's all up to how Boeing designs the 777X flight deck.
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  • Himeno

    Himeno

    25 Aug, 2018 09:48 pm

    I think we might see a Qantas Group Airbus narrow body short haul fleet (A220 replacing 717s) and A320s replacing mainline QF 737s, and a Boeing wide body 787/777X long haul fleet.
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  • S

    S

    24 Aug, 2018 10:33 am

    “I simply can’t see the ULR making it all the way without some
    serious sacifices to payload”

    Obviously have better intel than Airbus and Alan Joyce do you Whoppersandwich?
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  • eamond

    eamond

    24 Aug, 2018 11:56 am

    GE9X is on the cliff now as it's ETOPS is in danger following a test engine failure not too long ago. The failure means GE has to redesign a lot in the engine and I bet QF does not want a plane with no good ETOPS rating available.
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  • Ashdogs

    Ashdogs

    24 Aug, 2018 07:55 am

    I would sincerely hope to God that Qantas would resist the urge to fit a 777 in a 10 abreast configuration should they elect for that type, despite Boeing having squeezed a couple of extra inches of cabin width thanks to thinner wall liners.

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  • Chris McKellar

    krisdude

    24 Aug, 2018 08:33 am

    The 777 was originally designed for 10 abreast seating in Y. The 777X is designed for 10 abreast seating in Y with 17.5 to 18inch seat width due to in put by airlines.
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  • mitchimus

    mitchimus

    24 Aug, 2018 01:05 pm

    The 777 originally had 9 abreast in Y. The 10 abreast elbow crunching fit-out came later.
    No member give thanks

  • Henry  Private

    longwayaway

    24 Aug, 2018 06:20 am

    I love the pre-launch marketing hype seating and bunk layouts with all that extra space. Bench seats and people on stools at bars. It’ll be ‘packem in packem in’ at the end of the day. Emirates used to charge a whopping extra AUD1,000.00 return on the early J Class Australia to Europe with just the one stop. If QF MEL-CDG J Class is one cent more than say Cathay’s stop via HKG, I’ll stick with Cathay with a 5 day stopover each way which is part of the fun.

    No member give thanks

  • Ashdogs

    Ashdogs

    24 Aug, 2018 07:52 am

    Ah yes. I am taken back 17 or so years to the marketing hype for the A380...McDonalds, bowling alleys, casinos, discos, beauty salons, and all other manner of totally ridiculous ideas which were eventually replaced with a business as usual economy class, a bench seat in business class and a shower in first for Emirates and the like.
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  • Traveller14

    Traveller14

    24 Aug, 2018 09:14 am

    Agree. The hype pre-order never matches reality. At the end of the day, despite increasing efficiency, airlines continue to have very high fixed and variable costs so it's a case of as little room per passenger as to what they believe they can get away with.

    Look at QF's record in removing toilets.
    No member give thanks

  • Volkov Breg

    Volkov

    24 Aug, 2018 09:47 am

    B777X would be horrible in economy class. They wouldn't be able to fit the cabin with 18" seat width because it's too small.

    Go with A350-900 and A350-1000, it's way more modern and comfortable.
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  • Christopher Campbell

    Chris2304

    24 Aug, 2018 10:25 am

    The B777X has a wider cabin than the 777 and is able to fit 10 abreast 18" seats.
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  • StudiodeKadent

    StudiodeKadent

    24 Aug, 2018 11:47 am

    Only if armrests and aisles are slimmed, though.
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  • eamond

    eamond

    24 Aug, 2018 11:58 am

    When only 2.5" width is added into the cabin there's no way you can fit 18" seat in 10 abreast if you do the calculation. Even with the slim armrest. This is all BS thrown out by Boeing desparately trying to get some comfort tag added to 777X.
    No member give thanks

  • Brenton Thevarakam

    whoppersandwich

    24 Aug, 2018 12:21 pm

    Thankfully the cabin width has been expanded from 231” to 235” which allows for 18” seats.
    No member give thanks

  • Volkov Breg

    Volkov

    26 Aug, 2018 02:09 am

    Fact check:
    B777 internal cabin = 231 inch. (1 inch clearance betwen seat and the wall)
    B777X internal cabin = 235 inch. (1 inch clearance betwen seat and the wall)

    So they could use smaller arm rest at 1.5 inches. And then kept both of the aisle width at 17 inches. and then they could get 18" seat pitch on the cabin.

    A350 could offer the same seat width and arm rest BUT with 20 inches of aisle width.
    No member give thanks

  • jtung

    jtung

    24 Aug, 2018 03:27 pm

    That is true, not trying to be offensive, a Boeing aircraft tend to be less comfortable in terms of the width than an Airbus aircraft.
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  • jtung

    jtung

    24 Aug, 2018 03:24 pm

    It is obvious how Qantas rules out the A350-900ULR as it has been demonstrated by SIA that it could only carry 161 passengers for its flight from Sydney to New York, even though there were some improvements made in terms of the fuel system. As the specs that Qantas wants doesn't suit them, the A350-1000ULR is the only viable option from Airbus for their ambitious route from Sydney/Melbourne to London as it carries over 300 passengers but still carries the technology and the range of the aircraft would be longer.
    No member give thanks

  • Otto Van De Velde

    OttoV

    25 Aug, 2018 10:59 am

    Give me a direct flight anytime. No chance of mislaid luggage, noisy airports, trying to find a lounge, a terminal or gate etc. get on a plane, sit down and get up to start an adventure rather than a stop over tragedy
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  • Russjking

    Russjking

    26 Aug, 2018 09:23 pm

    David, please can you do your " moderator" thing with this article? Too many facile and inflammatory comments. A delay in publishing works so well. Thanks

    No member give thanks

  • Volkov Breg

    Volkov

    30 Aug, 2018 01:58 am

    I'm still not sure about B777X though. It's not as flexible as A350 would be. Qantas could definetly use the standard A350 for medium and normal long-haul flights, and use the ULR version for the ultra long flights. While B777-8X would only be good for ultra long flights and the larger B777-9X is the same size as B747-400. It's too big for most of Qantas network.
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  • Ian_from_HKG

    Ian_from_HKG

    6 Sep, 2018 02:54 pm

    We don't know what the -1000 ULR changes will be compared to the standard -1000, but isn't it the case that the changes between the -900 and the -900 ULR are only to the fuel system? According to this article:

    ""For us, it's really just a -900," Marisa Lucas-Ugena, Airbus' A350 marketing director, said Thursday in an interview. "The only thing that is really specific for the ULR is the additional fuel. And even on that, we are using the space we already have. It's really just a minor evolution of that system with additional piping and additional venting."

    Given that, and assuming that the ULR conversion doesn't require more for the -1000 than for the -900, then unless there is some very special seating arrangement, I don't see why the same aircraft couldn't also be used for medium-haul or normal long-haul, even with the additional features which have been mooted for the hold area, given that according to this article:
    "... the modules are interchangeable with regular cargo containers, [so] the aircraft's existing cargo floor and cargo-loading systems will not require modification."
     
    Speaking personally, I have a general preference (when it comes to latest-generation aircraft) for Airbus. The B787 was a game-changer, but the A350 is significantly better. I haven't tried the B777X, of course, and perhaps it will be a further step-change and overtake the A350 for passenger comfort, but at the moment I still prefer Airbus.
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26 May, 2019 07:27 am

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