When the Airbus A300 hit the market back in 1974, it cemented the European airframe builder’s place on the market. No longer were carriers forced to buy US-made planes. Airbus opened the door for better aircraft designs and a more competitive landscape. Flash forward forty years, how does the most recent airliner created by Airbus, the A350, compare to the hard-won original?
Comparing two different eras
To begin with, there is a big caveat that these two aircraft were built and designed in two very different eras. Not only has technology come an incredibly long way, especially when it comes to fuel efficiency and powerplants (engines), but also the way airlines use aircraft.
No longer would airlines have four-engined behemoths to fly long-distance routes. In fact, the A350 is in operation on the longest route in the world (New York to Singapore with the Airbus A350-900ULR).
So, while we should take this comparison with a grain of salt, it will be interesting to see how far we have come and how the Airbus line has evolved.
A side note, technically, the most recent aircraft to join Airbus is the Airbus A220 via Bombardier. But as Airbus didn’t invent this plane themselves, we will ignore it for now.
We begin by comparing the passenger configuration for the A300 and the A350.
The Airbus A300 series originally packed in around 280 passengers in a single class with 34 inches of legroom, or around 310 with only 31 inches of legroom. This design was initially for just pan-European travel and not long-haul.
When airlines saw the A300 as the perfect transatlantic aircraft, Airbus updated it to the A300-600R with a two-class layout. It would have 247 passengers onboard, with 46 in first class and 201 in economy. In total, the aircraft could carry 345 passengers. Of course, the final layout was airline specific, but this illustrates some of the most common configurations.
Compared to the Airbus A350 today, there are some differences:
- Airbus A350-900 typically accommodates 315 passengers, with 48 in business class and 267 in the economy. It could seat 440 in total if it were all-economy.
- Airbus A350-900ULR (ultra-long-range) only seats 67 business class passengers and 94 premium economy passengers. There are no standard economy seats.
- Airbus A350-1000 can seat 369 passengers, with 54 in business class and 315 in economy. Its maximum occupancy is 480 passengers.
As we can see, the A350 series is bigger and carry more passengers than the A300. But surprisingly, Airbus has kept the two-class layout.
Any era can build a big plane (look at the Boeing 747 after all), but the range is where the difference in technology will showcase itself.
We start with the Airbus A300:
- A300B4-200 has a range of 2,900 nautical miles (5,375 km).
- A300-600R has a range of 4,050 nautical miles (7,500 km).
Compared to the Airbus A350 with its incredible long range:
- Airbus A350-900 has a range of 8,100 nautical miles (15,000 km).
- Airbus A350-1000 has a range of 8,700 nautical miles (16,100 km).
And we haven’t even mentioned the ultra-long-range A350 that Singapore uses:
- Airbus A350-900ULR has a range of 9,700 nautical miles (18,000 km).
In comparison, the A350-900ULR has a range that is three times longer than the original A300. Impressive.
The improvements of the A350 series over the A300 are the testimonial of the technological prowess of Airbus, and how its aircraft have changed aviation forever.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.