The development of a brand-new emergency exit has allowed Airbus to increase its seating capacity on its A350-1000. The airframe manufacturer has secured 40 additional passenger seats. Airbus requested additional seating on the aircraft from the EASA with the development of new safety regulations.
Airbus’ expansion request
The EASA has now approved Airbus’ request to install new emergency exits on its A350-1000 aircraft which will allow it increased seating capacity without compromising safety.
Back in June this year, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) founded an Equivalent Safety Finding to review a request to increase the maximum seating capacity on Airbus’ A350-1000. The EASA had previously found that the emergency exits were not sufficient to allow more passengers on board.
In the Equivalent Safety Finding, the EASA said:
“Notwithstanding the improvements introduced in the meantime in the “state of the art” Type A emergency exit design (e.g. escape slides performance, door opening time, etc.), EASA does still consider the maximum number of passenger seats (i.e. 110) allowed by CS 25.807(g) per pair of Type A emergency exits as appropriate.”
The current Type A emergency exits would have compromised the safety of passengers if more were allowed to board. So Airbus decided to create the Type A+ emergency exit to combat the issue.
The pursuit of enhanced safety
The Type A+ emergency exits will now feature two slides per exit with enhanced lighting and a dedicated exit sign. The installation of these new exits also necessitates additional crew to ensure a swift evacuation. Airbus A350-1000 aircraft fitted with the Type A+ exit will require three, rather than two, cabin crew to man each emergency exit.
However, at the time of the Equivalent Safety Finding paper, the EASA was happy with the proposed changes. The authority stated:
“The design features included in the proposed Type A+ emergency exit definition provide for an increased evacuation performance compared to a design meeting the requirements for a Type A emergency exit.”
It thought that the increase in crew and better visibility of the exit would allow passengers to evacuate quicker. In June’s Equivalent Safety Finding paper, the EASA said that Airbus would undertake rigorous testing to ensure the increased performance of the exit. It continued to say that if it proved effective, the body would grant Airbus additional passenger seating.
That’s now been approved. The installation of these exits means that airlines using the A350-1000 can sit 120 passengers per emergency exit. That’s an increase of 10 passengers in comparison to the allowance with the Type A emergency exit. Overall, it brings the maximum seating capacity of the A350-1000 to 480. That’s if the aircraft is completely fitted with Type A+ exits.
A successful design
Evidently, the entire process and outcome of the A350-1000 exit design provides a great advantage to the manufacturer and its customers alike. Airbus has been able to make its aircraft more profitable for its customers as well as ensure they are safer than ever.
But the change will also pitch the manufacturer well against its competition. The development of a higher capacity aircraft means that it’s already a rival for Boeing’s 787-10. And with Boeing’s 777X somewhere on the horizon, the EASA’s approval has come at a good time! Airlines with pending A350-1000 orders, like brand-new Starlux Airlines, will be able to take advantage of the development.
However, whilst increased maximum capacity is generally a good thing, the development of the Typ A+ exits will come with financial implications for airlines. That will be in the form of increased salaries for extra cabin crew who will conduct the safety procedures at the emergency exits.
Challenges for the ‘spacious’ cabin
But, what’s more, there could be a non-financial penalty for passengers. The luxurious aspect of A350-1000 travel might be compromised with additional passengers on board. On its aircraft page, Airbus states:
“…the A350-1000 seats between 350 and 410 passengers – who can expect a spacious and quiet cabin, wider seats and elegant ambient lighting that contributes to a beautiful interior while also minimising the effects of jetlag.”
But that might change. According to an EASA design outline, the seating will need to be 10-abreast. That will likely mean smaller seats not wider ones as Airbus suggests and less space in the cabin overall.
But the layout is good for airlines, there’s no doubting that. If they’re able to complement additional seats with sterling customer service, who will really notice the bumping shoulders with their encroaching neighbor?
What’s your reaction to Airbus’ increased maximum seating capacity? Let us know in the comments!