ANALYSIS: Where are all the Airbus A350s flying?

The Airbus A350XWB is the Airbus new generation answer for airline’s serving medium and long-haul markets. While still marketed as a three aircraft family, interest in the the smaller -800 variant has waned and the current in-service -900 version and its soon to debut larger-1000 have proved popular with the world’s airlines securing more than 850 orders.

Airbus describes the A350WXB as “one of the most versatile in the sky” with true long range capability of up to 8,100 nautical miles, but can also easily configured to operate both regional and ultra-long haul routes (up to 9,700nm). It will soon operate the longest route in the world when the new A350-900ULR enters service with Singapore Airlines between Singapore Changi and New York, while this platform could also form the basis of an aircraft to deliver non-stop connectivity to London from both Sydney and Melbourne for Qantas.

As we approach its three year in service anniversary after making its commercial debut with launch customer Qatar Airways in Jan-2015, The Blue Swan Daily looks at the airlines and operations with the type. Like its rival, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, data insights suggest that while the aircraft has certainly facilitated a number of new routes that would not have been sustainable with older generation equipment, it has mainly been used to simply add efficiency and reduce costs in airline service.

According to the CAPA Fleet Database there are now more than 140 Airbus A350s now in commercial service with production having been ramped up last year. These are flying with 17 different airlines with the original A350-900 soon to be joined by the stretched A350-1000, which will debut with Qatar Airways in early 2018.

TABLE – Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific Airways are currently the largest operators of the A350 and the former will shortly debut the new A350-1000 version in passenger serviceSource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation Fleet Database (data: as at 20-Dec-2017)

Since the A350 made its commercial debut the type has already made approaching 95,000 flights (as at 01-Jan-2018) offering more than 28 million seats. The aircraft have flown nearly 495 million kilometres on scheduled flights, the equivalent of four return journeys to Mars, over 1,250 trips to the moon and back or almost 12,500 times round the world. In 2017 there was an A350 departure every five and a half minutes.

While for many airlines there has been a clear choice between the A350 and 787, both Qatar Airways and Ethiopian Airlines have deployed both aircraft types in their fleets. The A350 was actually flying over slightly longer stage lengths of 5,298km (versus 5,233km for the 787) in 2017, but that could simply be explained by the 787 operations being split between a mix of variants through operation of both the -8 and -9 versions of the Dreamliner.

But, what were the biggest markets for A350 operations in 2017?

The Blue Swan Daily takes a closer inspection of last year’s flight schedules. OAG data shows that with the expanding A350 fleet of Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong International Airport has jumped ahead of both Doha International and Singapore Changi airports to be the largest market for A350 operations. A total of 128 global airports have now been served by the modern generation airliner, including 54 which celebrated their first A350 arrival in 2017.

CHART – Hong Kong International has now overtaken Doha International and Singapore Changi as the largest airport for A350 operationsSource: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG