Airbus’ Fuel-Efficient Jets Fly into Boeing Territory

Airbus A350 XWB

by | Oct 8, 2013

Airbus A350 XWBAirbus has received a $9.5 billion order from Japan Airlines for 31 fuel-efficient A350 jets (pictured), the New York Times reports.

The planes will likely replace Boeing 777s — and signal a larger problem for Boeing, which has traditionally dominated the Japanese market, aviation analysts tell the newspaper. Boeing’s Dreamliner woes have hurt the company and it has waited to long to start updating its larger 777 planes.

The updated 777 jet — the 777X — costs 15 percent less to operate and consumes 20 percent less fuel than today’s 777 planes, according to Boeing. The newer wide-body jets will carry 350 to 400 passengers, compared with 300 on current 777 models. But Boeing says the first delivery won’t happen until 2020 and many analysts doubt the company can meet that deadline, the Times reports.

Meanwhile, Airbus has promised to deliver its fuel-efficient wide-body planes to Japan Airlines by 2019.

The A350 made its first test flight June 14. Similar to Boeing’s 777X family, Airbus says its super-efficient jetliner also uses 25 percent less fuel and provides an equivalent reduction in CO2 emissions.

Japan was Boeing’s “market to lose and they lost it,” Richard L. Aboulafia, an analyst at the Teal Group in Fairfax, Va., tells the newspaper. He says even with the battery problems and productions delays on the Dreamliner 787s, Boeing could have kept the Japanese market if it had been more aggressive in launching new jets like the 777X.

Cathay Pacific Airways and the International Airlines Group, which runs British Airways, also have ordered A350s, according to the Times. Both are also longtime Boeing customers.

In August, All Nippon Airways said it discovered defective wiring in the engine fire-extinguishing system on three of its 787 Dreamliners and a separate 787 operated by Japan Airlines was forced to turn back to Tokyo midflight for the same mechanical glitch.

In June, a United Airlines Dreamliner had to make an emergency landing because of a brake system problem.

These were just the latest problems to plague the Boeing 787 jet since it debuted. The Dreamliner fleet was grounded worldwide for three months earlier this year after two separate January incidences of lithium-ion backup batteries catching fire.


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