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Analysis-Airbus expands A350 cabin in mile high real estate war By Stocksak


© Stocksak. FILE PHOTO: Rows of seats, installed on board an Airbus A350, are pictured during a media day at the German headquarters of Airbus in Hamburg-Finkenwerder, April 7, 2014. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

By Tim Hepher

PARIS (Stocksak), – Airbus unveiled a larger and more spacious cabin for its A350, in a battle against Boeing (NYSE) – while quietly renouncing the slogan that it used to wage a fierce argument over elbow space with its archrival a decade earlier.

Fuel efficiency is a common issue between the planemakers. The latest battle involves some of the world’s most important real estate, the cabin of a large aircraft where comfort meets costs.

Airbus announced in a blog that it was introducing a New Production Standard to make A350s lighter, more flexible. The cabin will be made longer by moving a bulkhead, making it four inches shorter and making it more spacious.

“It increases the comfort in all classes,” Anais Martzo, head marketing cabin interiors, said.

Boeing declined to comment, but those who were familiar with its pitch to airlines stated that it insists its similar jet is larger.

The Airbus upgrade is crucial for resurgent wide body jet market competition. It allows for up to 34 additional seats to reach more 400 on an A350-1100, compared to the 406-seat Boeing 777X.

Airlines benefit from extra seats in two ways. First, they increase revenue if they can fill them. Second, they lower the cost per seat. This can lead airlines to buy more jets and have a greater impact on their fares.

John Walton, an independent aviation journalist and cabin expert, stated that the new pricing system is approximately 11% more efficient in economy-class pricing. He first reported the changes.

Currently, most A350 economy cabins have nine seats with a width of 18 inches per row. The A350 NPS will increase that number to 18.7 inches.

If airlines decide to add one extra seat per row in order to fly 10 passengers at a time, they will be able to use 17-inch wide seats. According to industry sources, it makes it easier to sell A350 to mainstream airlines who are not happy with the 16.4 inch seats on the A350’s current 10-abreast A350.

Only a handful have used this layout on budget carriers.

Airbus was forced to make a marketing turnaround despite this.

It campaigned in 2013 for an industry standard of 18 inch wide seats for long flights. The 17-inch alternative was introduced on the Boeing 787 rival as the “crusher”.

Boeing was also teased by an ad campaign that showed cramped seating in a restaurant as well as a plane. The slogan was: “You’d never agree to this.” So why would anyone accept this?

Airbus revealed its new layout and stated that it “transforms passenger comfort (for 10 people) by now accommodating full 17-inch industry standard economy seats.”

ECONOMICS VS ELBOWS

Many airlines have accepted tighter cabins, which result in lower fares. Comfort has also been improved by new sculpted seats.

The A350 is sandwiched between a larger 787 and a larger 777.

Airbus was promoting 18-inch seats at the time, but its A350 was losing sales due to the fact that the 787 had nine seats per row instead of the original eight. Airbus’ larger jet was unable to compete with Boeing’s seat count. Its ads went viral and were a success.

The public spat was all about elbows. It was all about economics in boardrooms.

Airbus called for an 18-inch standard. This was not just to embarrass its opponent, but to force a change of the number airlines used in their calculations, and remove a disadvantage against 787, insiders believe.

It now faces the opposite challenge. It is now chasing the already larger 777X, which has also scraped cabin walls. Its original plan to build a larger A350 was scrapped. According to industry sources, it then created the cabin plan.

Airbus is doing the opposite of what it did to the 787. It is increasing the seat count and convincing airlines that they should fly it that manner and, therefore, evaluating it that same way,” one said.

Boeing is expected to demonstrate flexibility as well. Sources said that the wider new 777X is more comfortable than the smaller A350 and will return fire against it just like Airbus against the 787.

Airbus stated that more seats are not the only option, and that many airlines would use the space in different ways. Spain’s Iberia, followed by Starlux of Taiwan, took the first NPS at 9:15 am.

Walton however predicted that 75% of A350 purchasers would eventually choose the tighter layout, matching most users of 777.

He said, “I think you’ll see anyone who is buying A350 NPS will be very strongly inclined towards 10 abreast.”

“Anyone with the A350 will likely go nine abreast for now to preserve commonality. The question is what happens later when planes start leaving the fleet.”

News Source and Credit

Stocksak Editorial

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