Airbus A350XWB family of jetliners have become the aircraft-of-choice for many airlines competing in the ultra-long-haul market. But as the market grows, so does the appetite for an aircraft capable of flying ever longer distances. Airbus is reportedly preparing to launch the A350-1000ULR, an ultra-long-range variant of the largest member of the A350 XWB family of jetliners.

In late 2018, rumors began to spread that Airbus may be planning an upgraded version of its latest wide-body A350XWB family. At the time, Bloomberg reported that the European manufacturer could be preparing to produce a short-haul re-engined version of the A350. Although the rumors have so far proven to be false, the report did get one thing right – that Airbus was seeking to develop a new product to take on Boeing’s brand-new 777X and the proposed 797 or NMA, a report by Aviation Analyst reveals.

Airbus long range families

Recently, Airbus has been betting on distance to open new routes and attract new customers. At the Paris Air Show in June 2019, the European plane maker wowed-the-crowds with the launch of its single-aisle Xtra-Long-Range A321 version, the A321XLR. 

But back in 2018, it was A350-900ULR that stole the show, entering into service with launch customer Singapore Airlines in September of last year. Capable of flying up to 9,700 nautical miles or over 20 hours non-stop, the A350-900ULR is currently the world’s longest range aircraft.  

The ever growing appetite to travel further

Last year, in October 2018, Singapore Airlines made headlines when it re-launched its non-stop Singapore-New York service on an A350-900ULR. Covering 9,534 miles and lasting up to 18 hours, it now holds the title of the world’s longest commercial flight. So far Singapore Airlines has placed an order for seven A350-900ULRs.

A spokesperson for Airbus told AeroTime: “The ULR version of the A350 is already in service on world’s longest non-stop commercial route between Singapore and New York. It is the same as the standard aircraft and uses the existing space for more fuel capacity for a longer range.”

Airbus has not yet officially confirmed the launch of the A350-1000ULR. However, an aircraft that could fly even further than the A350-900ULR would cater to Qantas Airways’ ambitions of launching flights from the east coast of Australia to London and New York, known as “Project Sunrise”.

Qantas’ CEO Alan Joyce announced the plans back in 2017 and has asked Airbus and Boeing to present their “best and final offer” for long-haul jetliners that would be capable of flying the up to 21-hour, over 10,550 mile (16,979 km) non-stop flight between Sydney to London. According to Joyce, the airline will make the final call on the Project Sunrise initiative by the end of August 2019, CAPA reports.

“The A350 XWB is perfect solution for Project Sunrise – non-stop Sydney or Melbourne to London - and we have been discussing with Qantas about its requirements,” Airbus spokesperson retains. “Details of these discussions remain confidential of course”.