Airbus’ new jet turns to Asia

By Seo Jee-yeon

Asiana emerges as crucial A350 client in the region

  • Published : Mar 30, 2014 - 20:58
  • Updated : Mar 30, 2014 - 20:58
TOULOUSE, France ― Airbus, the European aircraft maker, looks to the Asia Pacific region for the success of its new mid-size wide-body jet, the A350.

The A350, which is expected to see its first delivery to Qatar Airlines by the year end, is Airbus’ latest large passenger jet model offering up to 350 passenger seats. It competes with the Boeing 777 or 787 Dreamliner in the lucrative long-haul passenger flight market. Airbus beats its arch rival Boeing in the super jumbo jet sector with the A380 offering more than 400 passenger seats, while it falls behind Boeing in the lower long-haul flight segment.

“Asia is an important market for Airbus’ large aircraft, as its air traffic grows faster than other regions,” Claude Debeauquenne, a marketing manager from Airbus, said in a press meeting. 
Two test models of the A350 take to the skies above Toulouse, France, in February 2014, for their first flights. (Airbus)

“When it comes to the growth of air traffic, the Asia-Pacific region is a world champion. Air traffic in the region is forecast to grow 5.5 percent annually on average for the next 20 years (between 2012 and 2032), which is higher than 4.4 percent global average rate over the same period,” he said.

Another key pattern in global air traffic is that growth is concentrated.

“If you are looking at all long-haul air traffic, every flight is going to come from or via 42 big hub stations (across the world) ― what are called ‘mega cities.’ These mega cities take 93 percent of the total long-haul passenger traffic worldwide,” he said.

Based on the market outlook, Airbus is forecast to drive up marketing A350 to airlines in Asia-Pacific, whose main demand is mid-size wide-body jets. 

The record for A350 pre-orders is visible in the region so far. Airbus said as of March 2014, it has gained 824 orders from 42 airlines across the world. Among the 42 clients, four Asian airlines ― Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Asiana Airlines ― ordered more than 30 A350 aircraft.

“We think the A350 can appeal to airlines in that it will be more fuel efficient and cut operating costs compared with the competitor’s models,” Mike Bausor, the A350 marketing director at Airbus said. On the technical side, A350 adopts several advanced aviation technologies. Most of all, it will be world’s first jet using the lighter and more durable carbon fiber material in 53 percent of the airframe.

In a bid to appeal to Asian clients and prospective clients, an Airbus official said the company is considering a demonstration flight of the A350 in the region this year following the first regional exposure at the Singapore Air Show in February.

“Korea, where Airbus has developed good relations, could be one of destinations, but nothing has been decided yet on that plan,” an Airbus official close to the matter told The Korea Herald.

For the A350, Airbus has a key customer in the region ― Asiana Airlines. The nation’s second biggest carrier ordered 30 aircraft to form the backbone of its future mid-size wide-body fleet. The first Asiana A350 will be delivered in 2017, Airbus said. The carrier also signed a 10-year contract with Airbus for maintenance services.

In addition to passenger jets, Korea is also an increasingly important industrial partner for Airbus by providing parts. Korean Air Aerospace Division and Korean Aerospace Industries supply key parts for Airbus planes.

By Seo Jee-yeon, Korea Herald Correspondent