The Airbus A350-1000 vs Boeing 747-400 – What Plane Is Best?

Is the Airbus A350-1000 the successor to the Boeing 747-400? For Qantas, it certainly seems that way. Without the A380 continuing production, it looks like Qantas is looking to Airbus’ second-biggest aircraft to fill in the role left by the queen of the skies. But how do they compare?

Simple Flying
The Boeing 747-400 vs the Airbus A350-1000. Photo: Simple Flying

What are the details?

Qantas has made moves to select the Airbus A350-1000 for Project Sunrise and, in part, to fill in other areas of the Qantas network. Parts that used to be operated by the Boeing 747-400.

As Qantas is likely to buy 12 of the A350-1000s and was the only operator of the 747-400ER in the past, we thought they would be the best two aircraft to compare (Qantas did not order the Boeing 747-8i, the latest in the 747 series).

Naturally, this comparison will be a little unfair as the two aircraft were designed and built decades apart. Thus there have been plenty of developments in technology and aircraft design since then.

Airbus A350-1000 vs Boeing 747-400ER

Model A350-1000 Boeing 747-400ER
Cockpit crew Two Two
Seating 369 (54J+315Y) 416 (23F @ 61″ + 80J @ 39″ + 313Y @ 32″)
Exit limit 480 660
Overall length 73.79 m / 242.1 ft 70.66 m / 231 ft 10 in
Wing 64.75 m / 212.43 ft span, 31.9° sweep 64.44 m / 211 ft 5 in
Aspect ratio 9.03 7.91
Wing area 464.3 m2 / 4,998 sq ft 525 m2 / 5,650 sq ft
Overall height 17.08 m / 56 ft 0 in 19.41 m / 63 ft 8 in
MTOW 316 t / 696,661 lb 412 t / 910,000 lb
Fuel capacity 158,791 L / 41,948 US gal 241,140 L / 63,705 US gal
OEW 155 t (342,000 lb) 187 t (412,300 lb)
Cargo capacity 44 LD3 or 14 pallets 28 LD1/LD3
Cruise speed Mach 0.85 (488 kn; 903 km/h) Typical, Mach 0.89 (513 kn; 950 km/h) Maximum Mach 0.855 (504 kn; 933 km/h)
Range 16,100 km / 8,700 nmi 14,045 km / 7,585nmi
Takeoff (MTOW, SL, ISA) 2,600 m / 8,500 ft 3,260 m / 10,700 ft
Engines (2×) Rolls-Royce Trent XWB GE CF6
Maximum thrust 431.5 kN / 97,000 lbf 62,100–63,300 lbf (276–282 kN)


The Boeing 747-400ER really takes advantage of that second deck to push the overall carrying capacity of the aircraft. Looking at the exit limits, you can see that the upper level of the Boeing 747 allows airlines to carry an extra 150 passengers if needed.

However, in real terms, we can see that the 747 can carry more passengers plus three cabin classes compared to the Airbus A350-1000. It is likely that Qantas will not feature first class on its A350 fleet as the world falls out of love with the category.

Cathay Pacific Business Class
Cathay Pacific Business Class on the A350. Photo: Cathay Pacific


But the range is where the Airbus A350-1000 has the 747 beaten. The newer engines, winglets, and composite design allows the A350 to fly over 1,000 more nautical miles than 747. This is doubly impressive when you see that the A350 carries 100,000l less fuel than the 747.

For Product Sunrise, Airbus has said that they are modifying the MTOW of the aircraft to allow it to take additional fuel with full passenger capacity for Qantas’ needs (Project sunrise is around 17-18,000km.

project sunrise route
The distances for Project Sunrise. Photo: Qantas

Cargo capacity

Another item that is rather surprising is the cargo capacity of the aircraft. The A350-1000 seems to have a massive cargo hold compared to the Boeing 747-400ER. This is because of the single 3,240 US gal (12,300 L) body fuel tank in the forward cargo hold that gives the 747-400ER its extra range. The A350 does not need to make any such sacrifice.

The A350 is lighter, more efficient and can carry more cargo. It might not carry as many passengers as the Boeing 747, but in a world of more direct thinner routes (like Perth to London), passenger numbers are less important.

What do you think of this analysis? Let us know in the comments.