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[Herald Interview] Qatar Airways unveils first A350

A Qatar Airways A350 aircraft stands at Doha International Airport. (AFP-Yonhap)
A Qatar Airways A350 aircraft stands at Doha International Airport. (AFP-Yonhap)
DOHA ― Qatar Airways, the Gulf state’s national carrier, unveiled the world’s first Airbus A350 last week ― the newest aircraft in the market with higher fuel efficiency and a lower noise level.

“We are ready to commence operations with the A350 and are delighted to introduce another level of service with our expanded fleet,” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said at a news conference at Doha International Airport on Jan. 7.

Its first operation launched the Doha-Frankfurt route Thursday, and subsequent destinations will include New York, secondary European cities and the Far East.

“The Korean launch will be considered once the air carrier is able to host an additional seven flights a week to the Incheon-Doha route,” the CEO said. The airline currently operates seven flights a week to Korea.

The A350 is one of the lightest aircraft of its type, made from advanced carbon-composite fibers instead of the traditional aluminum and powered by two new-generation Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. 
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker. (AFP-Yonhap)
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker. (AFP-Yonhap)

“The engineering design of the A350 is modern, technologically refined and spacious, and we are proud to welcome yet another fine airplane into the Qatar Airways fleet,” the CEO said.

Starting with the inauguration of the first A350 into the fleets, all 80 planes ordered by Qatar Airways will have been delivered by the 2020s.

With the delivery of the A350, the airline became the first carrier in the world to operate every family of Airbus’ modern airliner portfolio, comprising the A320, A330/A340, A350 and A380.

The A350 is the newest model to roll off the European jet-maker Airbus’ production line and is the first entirely new plane to be showcased by one of the world’s two biggest aircraft makers since Boeing unveiled its Dreamliner four years ago.

According to Airbus and Qatar Airways, the A350 provides 25 percent more fuel efficiency than its current long-range competitor and relative quietness. It will be the last new commercial airliner developed over the next two decades.

“The arrival of the A350 into the Airbus fleet is quite simply a design for the decade,” Al Baker said. “This is special not just for us, but for the entire industry.”

That lightweight carbon-fiber design gives the aircraft models greater fuel efficiency while allowing flier-friendly features, such as larger windows.

Qatar Airways, which was awarded the World’s Best Business Class in 2014 for the second year in a row, said the A350 would enable its business-class flyers to enjoy wider personal space ― up to a 18-inch-wide seat ― and direct aisle access from any seat with the cabin’s 1-1 seating configuration.

Qatar Airways has a global network of over 130 destinations on six continents. It has more than 340 aircraft on order with a value of $70 billion.

The wide-body A350 family consists of three models -― A350-800, A350-900 and A350-1000 -― based on passenger capacity.

Qatar Airways opted for a two-class, 283-seat configuration in its A350-900, offering 36 business-class seats and 247 in economy class.

The business-class cabin features 80-inch fully flat beds and 17-inch HD in-flight entertainment screens.

Over 70 percent of the A350’s weight-efficient airframe is made from advanced materials combining composites, titanium and advanced aluminum alloys. The aircraft’s innovative all-new carbon fiber reinforced plastic fuselage results in lower fuel burn.

By Park Han-na, Korea Herald correspondent
(hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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