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17 November 2019
17. November 2019 Commercial Aircraft

Airbus widebody jetliners set the standards with Middle East and African airlines

Airbus’ A330neo test aircraft showcases its excellent handling qualities during a flight demonstration at the Dubai Airshow, being held 17-21 November 2019 in the United Arab Emirates; Fiji Airways’ A350-900 is shown in the foreground

The Middle East and Africa are two markets that have continuing demand for medium- and large-sized jetliners, with Airbus well-positioned to meet operators’ needs with its twin-engine A350 XWB and A330 aircraft families.

According to Airbus’ Global Market Forecast for the 2019-2038 time period, the Middle East is expected to require 1,095 new aircraft deliveries in the “large” category (which includes the A350 XWB) and 475 in the “medium” range (including the A330), while Africa is anticipated to require 190 “medium” aircraft deliveries and 100 in the “large” category during the 20-year timeframe.

The A350 XWB is an increasingly common site in the Middle East and Africa, having entered service during January 2015. Customers and operators in the region include Etihad Airways, the lessor Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE Capital), Ethiopian Airlines, Air Mauritius, Qatar Airways, South African Airways and, along with future operators Afriqiyah Airways, Kuwait Airways and Yemenia.

A350 XWB flexibility demonstrated

“There is excellent flexibility with the A350 XWB, especially with airlines that benefit from using both A350-900s and A350-1000s in managing the capacity demand, while also adapting to seasonal changes in traffic on certain routes, as well as increasing capacity when needed,” said Alexander Selyanko, A350 Product Marketing Manager at Airbus. “High commonality between the two aircraft – with 95% commonality by spare parts provision – is another advantage for airlines, including the ability for pilots to fly both with a single type rating.”

Selyanko outlined how the A350 XWB – in particular the A350-900 – is being used to spearhead the replacement of older competing widebody aircraft such as the 777-300ER, matching the passenger and range capabilities while driving down the operating cost by at least 25%. Additionally, the A350-900 is replacing 787s, particularly on mature routes to Asia and Africa, providing growth passenger and cargo potential.

One Middle East airline replaced 787s with the A350 XWB on flights to Asia – initially using the A350-900, and subsequently with the A350-1000. It is now deploying both A350 XWB versions for extra flexibility to manage capacity, improving route load factor and yield at the same time

Alexander Selyanko, A350 Product Marketing Manager, Airbus

In the Middle East and other markets where the cabin experience is a highly important differentiator, the A350 XWB is being used to set the standards, as shown by airlines’ introduction of the latest in business class accommodations – including enclosed suites.

The A350-900’s exemplary service with Ethiopian Airlines

Ethiopian Airlines became the A350 XWB’s initial African operator after receiving A350-900 versions beginning in June 2016. The A350 XWB also is the first Airbus-built jetliner to enter this carrier’s fleet.

The A350 XWB had an exemplary entry-into-service with Ethiopian Airlines, according to Selyanko, and is logging a high level of operational reliability while combining long- and short-range segments for network flexibility. Additionally, the A350-900 is demonstrating remarkable performance in flights from Addis Ababa Airport, which is situated at an altitude of more than 7,000 ft.

After initially ordering 12 aircraft, Ethiopian Airlines booked 10 additional A350-900s in a transaction announced during the 2017 Paris Air Show. Currently, the carrier is operating 13 A350-900s, two of which are leased. In developing its A350 XWB route network, Ethiopian Airlines is initiating service to Toronto, Canada this month – marking the first North American destination with the A350 XWB for this carrier.

The A350 XWB’s unmatched cabin comfort 

As the all-new, clean-sheet-design airliner in the large widebody category, the A350 XWB incorporates 70% high-technology materials, the latest system innovations, and Rolls-Royce’s advanced Trent XWB engines.

Its state-of-the-art airframe construction contributes to enhanced cabin comfort – an enabler for airlines on extended-duration flights. Advantages include the A350 XWB’s lower cabin pressure altitude, its air circulation system, multi-zone temperature climate controls, and lower interior noise levels (five decibels quieter than competing widebody aircraft, and up to nine decibels quieter towards the front of the cabin – equating to four times less noise).

“Operators also have significant flexibility to introduce the cabin products they want, in both business and the economy class sections, as the A350 XWB provides the floor space to innovate,” Selyanko added. “This is backed by Airbus’ own Innovative Cabin Enablers (ICE), which includes interior flexibility with our Cabin Flex modifications that allow for additional revenue through additional seats, as well as the design features of our Airspace cabin.”

Airlines are using the A350 XWB on their more ‘sophisticated’ routes to meet the expectations of premium passengers, with the aircraft markedly boosting these airlines’ Net Promoter Scores (NPS) – the metric used in customer experience programmes

Maria Luisa Lucas-Ugena, Head of A350 XWB Product Marketing, Airbus

The A330neo: a widebody aircraft of choice

Airbus’ other twin-engine widebody aircraft – the A330 – is an aircraft of choice in Africa and maintains a strong presence in the Middle East. More than 30 of its latest version, the A330neo (New Engine Option), have been delivered to 10 customers, with the aircraft flying from every continent and crossing the oceans on short-, medium- and long-haul services.

The region’s list of A330neo customers and operators include Air Mauritius, Air Senegal, Iran Air, Kuwait Airways, Middle East Airlines and Uganda Airlines; with customers and operators for the A330ceo version including Etihad Airways, Afriqiyah Airways, Air Algerie, EGYPTAIR, Gulf Air, Iran Air, Middle East Airlines, Oman Air, Qatar Airways, RwandAir, South African Airways and TunisAir.

“The A330neo is one aircraft in two sizes: the A330-800, and the longer fuselage A330-900 version,” said Crawford Hamilton, the Head of A330 Marketing at Airbus. “They are right-sized – with the right economics for still-emerging markets such as Africa, providing an ideal entry-level widebody; while bringing the right capacity, range and economics for more-established markets such as the Middle East. Everyone is looking for efficiency, and the A330neo has 25% lower fuel burn than the previous-generation competitors.”

The A330 is very reliable in service and highly maintainable – with four-times more MRO (maintenance repair and overhaul) service providers able to work on the A330 than its latest competitor

Crawford Hamilton, Head of A330 Marketing, Airbus

Hamilton noted that the A330neo also features the Airspace cabin, providing an award-winning interior and a new travel experience to all parts of Africa and Middle East, with the additional benefit of carrying up to 10 more passengers than an A330ceo. In another plus, airlines that require a smaller widebody aircraft than A350 XWB will be able to provide the same passenger experience with the Airspace cabin, which is utilised on both aircraft families.

The advantages of Airbus aircraft commonality

In addition to sharing the Airspace cabin’s advantages with the A350 XWB, the similarities across Airbus’ fly-by-wire aircraft enable carriers to apply the Common Type Rating concept, which allows pilots to transition from A330 to A350 XWB in only eight days without full flight simulator sessions.  

Airbus commonality also opens the possibility for pilots to be current on more than one Airbus fly-by-wire aircraft type at a time. This is known as Mixed Fleet Flying, and allows a properly-rated pilot to switch from Airbus widebody operations to flights at the controls of single-aisle A320 Family jetliners, for example. This flexibility creates new crew scheduling opportunities and provides a mix of flying opportunities that are highly appreciated by pilots, as well as creating significant benefits for airline profitability.

The A380’s strong connection with the Middle East

The Middle East remains the centre of operations for Airbus’ four-engine double-deck A380, with a combined total of 180 ordered by three airlines in the region: Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. They are used to connect the Middle East with long-haul destinations around the world (such as Emirates’ 7,670 nautical mile route between Dubai and Auckland, New Zealand), as well as shorter-distance routes (including the Emirates trip between Dubai and Muscat, a distance of  approximately 188 nautical miles).

Andrew Armistead, the Head of Airline Marketing at Airbus for Africa and the Middle East, said there will be A380 operations for many years to come, with the aircraft providing the Middle East and other markets the capacity to major hubs of the world and to other such destinations as Boston in the U.S.; Birmingham and Manchester in the UK; Toronto, Canada; and Guangzhou in China.

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