As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on international air travel, airlines are beginning to review the future of wide-body aircraft.
The global health crisis has had a severe impact on air travel demand and many airlines have been forced to ground wide-body aircraft, including the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747. Furthermore, using oversized quad jets is no longer considered to be financially and environmentally sustainable.
However, despite facing many difficulties during the pandemic, wide-body aircraft operators did not remove the Airbus A350, which is the latest passenger aircraft manufactured by Airbus, from its fleets. The aircraft has proven to be one of the most fuel-efficient widebodies currently flying across the globe.
Since its first commercial operation in 2015, the Airbus A350 wide-body has become a staple aircraft in long-haul aviation. Here, AeroTime examines the largest Airbus A350 operators.
Two years after the initial delivery, Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) became the launch customer of one of the rarest A350 Family variants, known as the A350-900 ULR, an ultra-long-range version of the Airbus A350. The first two A350-900 ULRs were used during the launch of the Singapore-New York route.
Currently, Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) has a total of 56 Airbus A350s in its fleet with an average aircraft age of 2.4 years old, according to Planespotters.net. Out of 56 Airbus A350 aircraft, seven are Airbus A350-900 URLs.
Qatar Airways took delivery of the primary Airbus A350-900 in December 2014 and became the first launch customer of the type. Unlike Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY), Qatar Airways does not possess the rare Airbus A350-900 URL variant. However, the Doha-based carrier has claimed the title of the first airline to fly the Airbus A350-1000.
The latest Airbus A350-1000 jet boasts 350 to 410 seats and a range of 16,100 km. In a typical three-class configuration, the A350-1000 is recognizable because of its larger windows, the fact that it boasts the widest seats of any aircraft in the A350 family, and utilizes advanced air system technology, including HEPA filters, which deliver optimal cabin air quality and renew air every two to three minutes.
“Qatar Airways always demands the very best for its customers, so it is right that we are the first airline in the world to take delivery of the very first Airbus A350-1000,” Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker was quoted in a statement in February 2018.
Currently, Qatar Airways has a total of 53 Airbus A350s with an average aircraft age of 3.6 years old, according to Planespotters.net. The airline operates 34 A350-900 and 19 A350-1000 aircraft.
Airbus orders and deliveries data indicates that Qatar Airways has 23 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft on order.
Hong Kong’s flag carrier, Cathay Pacific, took delivery of its first Airbus A350 on May 29, 2016, becoming Asia’s second A350 operator.
In a statement released in May 2016, Cathay Pacific Chief Operating Officer Rupert Hogg said: “This superbly efficient aircraft will help us further expand our global network and strengthen Hong Kong’s reputation as an international aviation hub, helping to oil the wheels of commerce and trade in our home city.”
Currently, Cathay Pacific has 43 Airbus A350s in its fleet. The average aircraft age is 3.4 years old, according to Planespotters.net. Out of 43 A350s in its fleet, 15 are the latest generation Airbus A350-1000 aircraft.
It is also worth noting that Cathay Pacific was the first airline to take both the Airbus A350-900 and the A350-1000 to New Zealand in 2016 and 2019, respectively.
“We were the first airline to bring the Airbus A350-900 to New Zealand skies in 2016 and we remain dedicated to leading the way in airline travel comfort,” Cathay Pacific Regional General Manager for South West Pacific Rakesh Raicar said.
Airbus orders and deliveries data shows that Cathay Pacific has only three A350-1000s on order.
Currently, Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) operates 17 Airbus A350-900s with an average age of 3.4 years old, as per Planespotters.net. Additionally, Airbus data indicates that the airline has 28 A350-900s on order.
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines received its first Airbus A350-900 delivery on July 17, 2017, becoming the first North American airlines to fly the wide-body.
“Our new flagship A350 fits well in Delta’s long-haul network, combining an exceptional customer experience with strong operating economics and fuel-efficiency as we retire older, less-efficient aircraft,” said Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO.
Currently, the US-based airline operates 17 Airbus A350-900s, according to Airbus. From the 25 A350-900s that were on order, eight are yet to be delivered.