Why Is Airbus Considering Manufacturing The A350-1000ULR?

According to a report by Alex Macheras, Airbus may be considering an extended range version of its brand new A350-1000. Utilizing the same naming strategy as its smaller sister, the A350-900 Ultra Long Range (ULR), the proposed A350-1000ULR could reportedly compete with Boeing’s delayed 777X. Here, we explore the demand for aircraft capable of ultra long-range operations and the A350-1000ULR.

A350-900 in Berlin 2016
Airbus is reportedly looking to offer an extended range of the A350-1000, dubbed the A350-1000ULR. Photo: Julian Herzog/ Wikimedia Commons

Ultra-long-haul demand

Although there is no universally accepted definition of an ultra-long-haul flight, it is agreed that any flight longer than twelve hours fulfills this classification.

While some passengers may prefer a stop-over during a long journey, many are attracted by the simplicity of a singular flight. Indeed, according to a 2012 survey by CWT, journey length and indirect flights are some of the highest stress factors impacting business travelers.

Given passenger preferences, and the logistics and liabilities involved with connecting itineraries, many airlines have turned to ultra-long-haul flights. Not only have such flights been a way to better serve passengers but have also provided a novel means of increasing growth.

A340-500
Airbus has long sought to offer airlines ultra-long-haul operations with its aircraft. Photo: Angelo DeSantis / Wikimedia Commons

Though airlines such as Singapore and Air Canada once offered 12-hour plus segments from Asia to North America, utilizing the A340-500 and 777-200LR respectively, aircraft limitations and economics eventually put an end to these endeavors. With new composite technologies and ever more efficient aircraft, however, ultra-long-haul has once again become en vogue.

The A350-1000ULR

Like the A350-900ULR, which can travel 9,700 nautical miles compared to the standard 8,100nm, the supposed 1000ULR model should have an increased range over its existing 8,700nm capabilities.

Key to the 1000ULR’s success, however, will be Airbus’s ability to increase, or at least maintain, the 1000’s maximum takeoff weight. Indeed, not only will the aircraft have to carry additional fuel to carry out its ultra-long-haul operations, but will have to do so while carrying an economically viable amount of passengers and their baggage.

The A350-1000, the largest aircraft in the A350 family, was recently launched by British Airways. Photo: Tom Boon/Simple Flying

While details of the 1000ULR are extremely sparse in these early days, one could hope that the aircraft will be able to accommodate 350-410 passengers, like the standard 1000 variant, on routes over 9000nm.

Superjumbo replacement

With the unfortunate end to the A380 program approaching, Airbus is likely to offer its proposed ultra-long range, high capacity, twin-jet to existing super jumbo carriers.

Admittedly, the A350-1000 does not have the sheer capacity to match the A380. Take British Airways, for example. It’s A380’s can accommodate 469 passengers in four classes while it’s new A350-1000s only boards 331 in three.

LH A380 - "Zurich"
Depending on the A350-1000ULR’s specifications, it could perhaps be successfully used as an A380 replacement. Photo: Maarten Visser / Wikimedia Commons

Though capacity may not be matched, the operating economics of twin-jets, combined with the difficulties many carriers might have in filling the gigantic plane, not to mention the challenges A380s face at airports, could make the A350-1000ULR an attractive replacement for the quad-jet.

Just as importantly for Airbus, though, the introduction of an A350-1000ULR may strengthen the carrier’s competitive offerings against Boeing’s 777X. Not only could the repaved A350-1000 increase the model’s range, but also, possibly, increase its maximum takeoff weight.

Qantas 787
The Airbus A350-1000ULR could be an excellent contender for Qantas’ Project Sunrise. Photo: Adam Moreira / Wikimedia Commons

Although the details of the A350-1000ULR are currently speculative, an Airbus spokesperson told Simple Flying that as a leading aircraft manufacturer, the company is always looking at ways to develop its existing products.

So, what do you think of the A350-1000 ULR? Who do you think would be interested in the A350-1000ULR? Will the aircraft successfully compete with the 777X? Let us know in the comments.

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PaulE

Qantas and the A350-1000ULR are certainly dancing around what seems to be a twice-weekly news announcement regarding Project Sunrise. It is at the point where it simply is not news anymore. When Qantas management finally make an announcement about going ahead with the project (or possibly not), it will also need to be making a decision about the replacement of their ageing 737-800 fleet. This may be a coup for either Airbus or Boeing. It will be a long term commitment from Qantas for well over 100 new aircraft.

Nigel

With regard to Project Sunrise, I tend to agree with you: there’s a lot of fanfare, but the wine keeps getting watered down. It will be interesting to see if the project indeed goes ahead in anything resembling its original form.
Before he makes such an important announcement, let’s hope that Mr. Joyce learns to say:
“This, that, these and those…that’s the way the “th” goes”
rather than:
“Dis, dat, dese and dose…dat’s de way de “dh” goes”.
😉

Nicholas Cummins

I think thats the real story. I believe that any partnership with Airbus or Boeing for project Sunrise will go with the narrowbodies too.

KP

I notice Airbus is ALWAYS designing a plane to counter Boeing — you would think they don’t know how to be innovative , oh yeah, A380 and A400 cargo plane — oops — On Second thought – you guys at Airbus maybe ought to stick to that copy Boeing and leave innovation up to Boeing — bet you can’t wait to see a NMA 797 so you can figure out what to do next

Tony

No quite right KP. The A300 came on to the market well before the 767 which targeted the same market. Mind you, there is a lot to be said for watching the oppositon bring something new to the market then copy and improve it. Don’t personlly see Boeing as an innovative company these days given the yawning gaps between new aircraft types. How many years between the 777 and 787 and look at what a cock up the developement of the 787 was due to sub contracting out work. Surprising thing about most new aircraft developement is despite the advent… Read more »

Abe

You do realise that Boeing originally had plans to build all new small, medium and large aircraft? In the end they just built the 787, and then copied Airbus in upgrading the 737 and the 777…

IanFromHKG

KP – Airbus not innovative and only copying Boeing – What??!! First twin-engine widebody jet – Airbus A300 First jetliner to use composites – Airbus A300 First commercial jetliner with glass cockpit and fly-by-wire – Airbus A320 First jetliner with a full double-deck – Airbus A380 Many more examples available of Airbus innovation, that’s just a taster Let’s not forget that in the last couple of years, “innovations” from Boeing on the B737 Max – intended to emulate the efficiencies resulting from a major redesign by Airbus, but countered by Boeing just rethinking a design more than half a century… Read more »

Riplander

@KP Airbus doesn’t always have to be innovative. They just make sure their planes aren’t designed around work-around solutions like the Boeing 737 Max.

Nigel

It will be interesting to see whether Singapore Airlines will take such a 1000-ULR when it comes, and convert their 900-ULRs back to regular 900s (which is relatively simple). I imagine that Airbus will offer them that option.

Kevindo

The -900 ULR is configured as a premium-only cabin with business and premium economy into business hubs as there are customers who will pay for direct flights in a premium cabin. Soon after the relaunch of these flights, SQ has acknowledged that they are struggling to fill their premium economy seats in the ULR. This is backed by heavy discounts for these seats and discounted miles redemption on certain flights. Unfortunately t’s a little too soon to reconfigure the PEY seats into a full business cabin or de-rate/configure them back into -900s. The -1000 ULR will give SQ the added… Read more »

Martin

Never been happy with the 777. 330 and 340 were much nicer aircraft…quieter and smoother. Will let you know thoughts on 350-1000 after next week. A 350-1000 ulr would get my vote.

Andy

I couldn’t agree more – my wife recently booked her flight to Oz with Qatar rather than Emiraters, purely because she wanted to fly on the A350 rather than the 777. She gets there a lot less tired.