There are two models of the Airbus A350 aircraft, but how are they different? Why did Airbus build two models? Let’s explore!
Why was the Airbus A350 built?
The Airbus A350 is the spiritual successor to the Airbus A340 line. The A340 specializes in long-range travel, but not with a passenger capacity bigger than the Airbus A380. The A350 competes against the Boeing 787-10 and the 777 series, especially rivaling the new Boeing 777X that will enter into service sometime in the next few years.
There are two versions of the A350, the smaller A350-900 and the longer A350-1000. Airbus did have plans for a small Airbus A350-800 that would have found its way as a competitor to smaller Boeing 787 aircraft, but thanks to product delays, this model was dropped in favor of others in the series. There is also a unique variant of the A350-900 called the ULR (Ultra Long Range) with some special features, which we will get to below.
The Airbus A350-900 carries 300 to 350 passengers in a two-class configuration. This is typically laid out as 315 seats with 48 as lie-flat business and 267 in economy. The plane has a maximum exit limit of 440 passengers.
For the Airbus A350-900ULR, the configuration can be different by removing the economy and replacing it with a premium economy cabin instead. Singapore Airlines, who operate this type, has its aircraft configurated with 161 seats, with 94 premium economy seats and 67 lie-flat business seats. The aircraft is mostly business seats and surprisingly sells out of that cabin before the cheaper premium economy cabin.
When it comes to passengers, the A350-1000 can carry more as it is longer than the -900 by 11-frames (roughly seven meters or 23 feet) and has a slightly larger wing. This space can carry 350-410 passengers, which are typically laid out in a two-class configuration of 369 passengers of 54 business and 315 economy.
When it comes to range, it gets a little more complex:
- Airbus A350-900 has a range of 15,000 km / 8,100 nautical miles
- Airbus A350-900ULR has a range of 18,000 km / 9,700 nautical miles
- Airbus A350-1000 has a range 16,100 km / 8,700 nautical miles
Typically you might think that the bigger the plane, the more fuel it has and thus the more range. But with the A350 series, this isn’t the case, as the A350-900ULR has the longest range despite no additional fuel tanks (the range comes from a variety of improvements increasing the capacity from 141,000 to 165,000 liters (37,000 to 44,000 US gal)).
Both the Airbus A350-900 and -1000 have a relatively closer performance when it comes to the range (there are few routes over 15,000 where the extra 1000 km is a deal-breaker). Even Qatar has noticed this, and for its order, they opted for the -1000 for more passengers over the extra 1000 nautical miles offered by the ULR.
Bottom line differences
In summary, the -1000 is better for large passenger numbers, while the -900 is a more flexible platform with a greater range. Whether or not these improvements will make it to the A350-1000 in time remains to be seen.
What do you think? Have you flown on both? Let us know in the comments!
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