In recent years, two new, long haul aircraft lines have been competing for the hearts and minds of the international traveller – the A350 next-generation aircraft from European manufacturer, Airbus, and the 787 Dreamliner from US giant, Boeing. This concurrent, gradual unveiling has generated plenty of headlines for both, but the jury is still out on which is the superior model. So let’s take a look at the evidence.
The similarities are strife:
In many ways the two machines are very similar. Both are long-range, extra-wide, 3-3-3 seating set-up, twin-engine aircraft with Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymer (CFRP) bodies. Both offer a lower-cabin pressure experience for better passenger comfort and low eye-stress LED lighting for less glare. Both are much more fuel efficient than previous machines in the air with a lower passenger-to-fuel cost ratio and both have a range of around 15,000 kilometers – with the Airbus A350 reaching just a little further. So far – so similar, but what about the differences?
Where the Airbus excels:
In addition, the Airbus A350, thanks in part to the Rolls Royce Trent XWB engine, is incredibly quiet. Passengers report being able to talk and listen in much the same way as they would do in an outdoor cafe. The Airbus also has the higher ceiling of the two, which offers a greater sense of space and more overhead bin space.
The Airbus has also introduced international travellers to the beauty of fourth generation inflight entertainment, namely, 28cm video screens in economy for a more at-home experience and tail cameras for a view of the world below. The life-vest boxes have also been repositioned, which may not sound like a big deal, but if you want to stretch out your legs under the seat in front, now you can. Also, the pilots at Delta are singing the A350’s praise. Its advanced technology on the flight deck is giving stressed out officers a much easier life.
What about the Boeing?
But not to be out done, the 787 Dreamliner has a couple of nice individual features too. They’ve introduced a larger, electro-chromatic window, to offer passengers a better, less claustrophobic view of the world outside. They’ve also lowered cabin noise with and advanced technology, which isolates sidewall vibration noises.
And what else? Well, unless you’re in the boardroom not much, really. Although the 787 Dreamliner is being hailed as a game changer, its most significant advantages are in price, running costs and environmental impact.
In short, money matters in flying, both to the passenger and the business. The A350 does have a lot more interesting new features, but this comes with a price tag of around 40 million US dollars more than the 787 and a slightly lower flight efficiency.
But sadly for the new, more economical Boeing 787, some of her new features have thrown up new problems too. From 2013, issues with the lithium-ion batteries grounded the entire 787 fleet for six months after two separate fire events. And airlines have only recently decided they need to retro-fit pull-down blinds to offset problem with heat coming from bigger windows. So as always, which one you prefer is up to you. But for style and comfort, the A350 is looking like the overall winner.