Airbus’ latest plans may involve a new narrow-body jet as well as an upgraded version of its latest family of wide-bodies, the A350 XWB. And the plane maker is already hiring staff for the task, a report by Bloomberg on November 21, 2018, indicates.

Bloomberg states it has come across Airbus’ job postings for designers and engineers in Toulouse (France) and Madrid (Spain), where the European plane maker’s two manufacturing sites are located, as additional manpower to work on the proposed projects.

According to the job postings, the company is planning to produce a brand-new short-haul model, as well as a Neo version of the A350. Both planes would be powered by a new generation of engines starting from the mid-2025.

Airbus says, however, that the search for new recruits does not guarantee the jets would actually be produced.

Stealing the show?

Airbus knows it needs a new product to take on rival Boeing's proposed brand-new 797 mid-size jet and would step on the turf of the blockbuster narrow-body A320neo. Meanwhile, the A350neo solution would aid Airbus’ competition with Boeing in the wide-body market.

Originally conceived in 2004, the A350 long-range, twin-engine jetliner was positioned to compete with Boeing’s 787 and 777. Now, Airbus needs to brace for the upcoming 777X and the rumored 797, which would essentially be a smaller version of the 787 Dreamliner.

Except that the A350 XWB already is an upgrade – an all-new and most modern family of Airbus’ mid-size long-haul planes.

The A350 XWB Family comes in two variants: the A350-900 and the A350-1000. The -900 variant entered into service back in January 2015, with launch customer Qatar Airways.

Just earlier this year, on February 20, 2018, Airbus announced it delivered the first A350-1000 to the carrier. Qatar Airways has a total of 37 orders for the latest model and is the largest A350-1000 customer in the world.

On September 22, 2018, Airbus announced it had delivered the first of seven A350-900ULR (Ultra Long Range) jets to Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) (SIA), which has ordered these aircraft for its non-stop route to New York, the longest in the world. SIA’s new jet has a range of up to 9,700 nautical miles and can fly for over 20 hours non-stop.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has selected Airbus’ newly launched Ultra-Long Range version of the A350-900 for non-stop flights to the US. Under an amendment to the carrier’s existing order for 63 A350-900s, seven of the aircraft will now be delivered with an Ultra-Long Range capability for flights of up to 19 hours. In addition, the carrier has placed an additional order for four A350-900s, taking its total firm orders for the A350 XWB Family to 67.

Interestingly, the third and smallest member of the A350 XWB Family, the A350-800, was never built. Gaining little attention, the manufacturer cancelled its development in 2014 (having launched the A330neo at the Farnborough International Airshow same year), deciding to focus on the larger -900 and -1000 models.

Airlines gradually switched to or converted their A350-800 orders to the other two variants, some cancelling the orders altogether. South Korean carrier Asiana Airlines was the last to convert the aircraft to eight A350-900s, FlightGlobal reported back in March 2018.

What’s so special about the A350 XWB?

The extra-wide-bodied A350 XWB has “extra” long range capability of up to 8,100 nautical miles (15,000 km), but can also be configured to operate both regional and ultra-long haul routes (up to 9,700nm), the manufacturer states.

According to Airbus, the A350 XWB also complements the A330 Family in terms of smooth entry into service, including route planning or the reduced training time for pilots familiar with the A330 (both aircraft have common type rating).

Comparing the two models, the -1000 is the larger version of the A350 XWB Family. The A350-900 is 219 ft 2 in long (66.80 m) and 55 ft 11 high (17.05 m) with a range of 8,100 nm (15,000 km). It accommodates 325 passengers in a standard three-class configuration.The newest -100, is 242 ft 1 in long (73.79 m) and 56 ft high (5.96 m). It has a range of 8,400 nm (15,557 km), and a typical seating of 366. Both models can carry up to 440 passengers.

The A350-900 currently comes with a $317.4 million price tag, and the larger model is valued at $366.5 million, both at list prices. As of October 31, 2018, the A350 XWB aircraft had scored a total of 890 orders from 47 operators worldwide, with 212 jets having already been delivered, Airbus orders and deliveries book shows.  

The company says its A350 XWB twinjet, powered by the latest generation Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, is the world’s most modern and efficient jetliner: with increased efficiency and 25% lower operational costs, fuel burn and CO2 emissions.

Meanwhile, Boeing promises that its upgraded version of the 777, the 777X, scheduled to enter into service with launch customer Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) next year, will be the largest and most efficient twin-engine jet in the world.

At the same time, the U.S. manufacturer might be eyeing the 2019 Paris Air Show for the launch of the 797 New Midsize Aircraft (NMA) program, as explains, though nothing has yet been officially announced.