Could A Miniature Airbus A350 Compete With The Boeing NMA?

Previously on Simple Flying, we discussed how the A350 could be stretched (into an A350-2000 400 passenger variant) to compete with the Boeing 777-9. But now experts predict that Airbus might shrink the A350 instead, in a bid to beat the Boeing 797.

And it’s already been designed; the A350-800.

Airbus A350-1000. Could a shorter one beat The Boeing 797? Photo: Wikimedia

What is the Airbus A350-800?

The Airbus A350-800 was the smallest A350 developed next to the -900 and -1000. It would carry 276 passengers in a three-class configuration, to a range of 8,245 nmi.

It would have twin aisles, use the same composite materials as the rest of the A350 range and likely have the same fuel efficiency as the Boeing 787.

The aircraft was initially designed to replace the A330-200.

Originally Airbus managed to gather 182 orders for the A350-800, but when they announced the Airbus A330neo-800 they decided to convert these orders to the A330neo or upgrade to the slightly larger (and more economical) A350-900.

I believe all of our customers will either convert to the A350-900 or the A330neo”, Airbus President and CEO Fabrice Bregier said to Aviation Week in 2014.The A330neo is the more efficient solution (compared to the A350-800).”

A330-800 take off
Kuwait Airways recently ordered eight A330-800neos; to be delivered this year. Photo: Airbus Press Release, 2018.

How would it compare to the 797?

As we have mentioned in the numerous Boeing 797 articles, there are a few key gaps that the Boeing 797 is set to fill.

  • An aircraft that can carry 220-280 passengers in the middle of the market (Boeing does not have an aircraft that fills this gap at the moment).
  • Designed for routes that are short haul but dense, such as New York to Chicago or London to Paris. The aircraft would be small and efficient like the Boeing 737 but with twin aisles, allowing for faster boarding and disembarkation.
  • It would have a range of around 5,000 nmi.

The shortened A350-800 would be placed squarely next to the 797 in terms of passenger numbers but would blow the 797 out of the water with its long-haul reach of 8,200 nmi.

Naturally, there is one metric where the Boeing 797 might crush the A350: cost to airlines. The A350 family all cost over $300 million USD each, and Boeing is planning on pricing the 797 at around $100 million a unit (some experts say $75 million, but that seems far too optimistic). Thus, if an airline can buy three 797s for the cost of one A350-800…Boeing might still come out on top.

Airbus A350
The Airbus A350 sells for around $300 million USD up. Photo: Wikimedia

It is hard to say too much more as the Boeing 797 exists even less than the Airbus A350-800 (which in essence is just some planes in a backroom somewhere).

Would it be built again?

In November last year, a rumor from Airbus suggested that they were considering an A350neo range.

The new engine option, of course, would be the new Rolls Royce Ultrafan. This engine would allow the A350neo family to achieve fuel efficiency above and beyond the Boeing 787 or possibly the 797 as well. Airbus hopes to have this NEO flying by 2025.

As part of this design, Airbus might revisit the -800 series and see if they can make it work for the modern (2025) market. But if Airbus has struggled to make the A330neo-800 work, is there any chance for them to reintroduce the A350-800? We are not so confident.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments! 

9 comments
  1. The cost of the new A350 would be less because it would be smaller than it’s bigger brothers, also I dought the 797 could be made for the 100 million they claim. I would love to see and fly this a350,it would be a fabulous experience.

    Boeings buggest problem right now is the total loss of trust from airlines and passengers . No one I have talked to want to fly on a Max ever and have asked me what to loook for when booking tickets so they can avoid the Max.
    Most believe that the people at Boeing that made the decisions to lie to the airlines about the aircraft should be charged with 346 counts of murder.

  2. An A350-800 would be ridiculously heavy as it would contain the wing and centre section for the -900/1000. There’s a reason Airbus didn’t build it. It didn’t sell.

  3. I wonder how the airlines will respond to those of us who have already booked their flights on a 337 Max 8 or 9. Would regulators ask airlines to honor the wishes of prospective passengers who had already made reservations when the prospective problems with the aircraft came to light?

    1. We actually discussed this previously… https://simpleflying.com/should-airlines-refund-future-boeing-737-max-bookings/ Personally I think if the FAA and other national regulators, not to mention airlines, have tested it and think its safe to fly we should have a little faith. But, it’s up to passengers at the end of the day. Most likely scenario is that airlines will maintain normal booking protocol, so if your flight was changeable / refundable, then you’ll be able to do that.

  4. Duh. The Boeing 787-8 is too big to play NMA music, so there is no way the larger A350 could try. The A330 is too heavy. Here’s the problem. The formula is only partly about capacity, The rest is high efficiency no current airplane can touch. He is the problem. New Middle of the Market Airplane is to be interpreted correctly. When there was a Boeing 747 and the next smaller airplane was a Boeing 727, the “middle” was a rash of aircraft 16 and 18 feet wide, A300, A310, L-1011, DC-10, and the Boeing 767. The 757 was a special performance airplane able to do some of the duties of the 767-200 at greater efficiency. Much as I like riding on the Ferrari of the bunch (757) I do not like getting off when I am seated beyond row 30. It takes forever. So part of the problem is the letters NMA, all jammed together. If we assume a static definition, that the idea of middle is constant and unchangeable we make a mistake. We are not looking for a New Airplane in the Old Middle, NAOM. We are expecting a very different airplane in the New Middle, lighter and smaller than the 767-200 but with similar width only. In height it will be similar to the 757, ovular because the intention is already on the table to NOT fly freight. Just people in order to save fuel. That will allow a smaller wing, smaller engines, and possibly feature a carbon fiber fuselage much lighter than the 787. The A350 is the NAOM. So is the 787. Both are long haul, which costs weight in order to carry the fuel. The A330 is OAOM-neo. In some ways the New-Middle Airplane will be a narrower, flatter 787 relative, without the long-haul capability, which further optimizes the role. So no. You missed the point.

    1. You’ve raised one issue which I think is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to the NMA launching: what exactly is it? You mention that it should not bother with freight. This is what the airlines in the US want. The problem is that Boeing has to consider more than just its local airlines if it wants to sell this plane wider. On the flip side, Asian carriers who are interested in this plane all want freight, because cargo revenue is much more important for them. You can’t have a one size fits all plane that makes everyone happy.. and every time they change something to please a particular customer, the potential market gets smaller and smaller

  5. My feeling is that Airbus already has a competitor for the 797/NMA. The A321 series of aircraft. The A321lr, xlr and ulr have ranges from 4,000 to 4,500 miles and carry up to 230 passengers. The plane is being marketed now and can give Boeing a serious run for their money.

    1. I really couldn’t care less how Boeing, Airbus, COMAC, Embraer, UAC, and so on design their new aircraft. The one that can fly passengers safely, economically but most importantly, from the passenger’s perspective, comfortably, will win.

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