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Grand designs

On 20 February, Qatar Airways took delivery of the first production Airbus A350-1000. Ian Harbison joined the celebrations in Toulouse
 

Qatar Airways, in its own words, has ‘aggressive expansion plans’ both in terms of its international network and the size of its fleet. As a result, it has become a major player in the industry in just 20 years, helped considerably by its Group Chief Executive, Akbar Al Baker, who is well known for his hands on approach, attention to detail, and no holds barred attitude if things do not go according to plan – even major OEMs have become accustomed to stinging put downs when there are delays and problems.


New technology and passenger comfort are two of the main drivers for the airline and recent years have seen the introduction of the Boeing 787 (2012), Airbus A380 (2014), A350-900 (2014) and the Qsuite (2017), the latter being described by Al Baker as ‘the ultimate in luxury for business class passengers’. Designed by PriestmanGoode and produced by Zodiac Aerospace UK, it was first fitted to the Boeing 777. It is now on nine aircraft, plus five A350-900s, but these have all been retrofitted. It has also suffered some production delays and in-service reliability problems, which had a knock on effect by delaying delivery of the A350-1000 from December, although Airbus completed the aircraft and the Qsuite installation on time. Surprisingly, Al Baker seemed relaxed about this, perhaps not wishing to take away from Fabrice Brégier’s last day as Airbus CEO – he said seeing the A350 through from inception to being in service were the greatest moments of his time with the company and thanked the entire team for their efforts.


As the Qsuite was fitted to the A350-1000 before delivery, this aircraft could be said to be the flagship of the fleet, bringing together all of the incremental cabin improvements from previous types. In fact, it has also taken advantage of improvements to the basic aircraft that have been introduced by Airbus, either from the -1000 development programme or from -900 modifications introduced over the production run. These include an increased MTOW of 250 tonnes and a 1% fuel burn improvement from aerodynamic improvements (revised wing twist and fairings). The MTOW increase is partly due to weight reductions in the structure (such as composite replacing titanium for door surrounds).


The cabin has also changed, François Caudron, Senior Vice President, Head of Marketing at Airbus, told Aircraft Cabin Management. At the rear, the galley layout has been modified, with reduced space and the addition of two lavatories. This has allowed six extra seats to be installed. A revised six-trolley galley at Door 2 adds another three seats. Slimline baggage bins have now been installed above the last six rows of Economy, where the overhead crew rest compartment intrudes into the cabin space.


The biggest difference between the two variants of the aircraft is that the A350-1000 has a 7m longer fuselage. This requires a lengthened wing trailing-edge, new six-wheel main landing gear and more powerful Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines (97,000lb thrust instead of 84,000lb).


For Qatar Airways, the stretch means 44 extra seats, taking capacity to 281 seats. Business Class increases from 36 to 46 seats, in a 1-2-1 configuration. The middle suites are able to convert to six double beds (all beds are 80in) and there six quad suites. A 22in screen is fitted for the Thales TopSeries AVANT IFE system, with connectivity by OnAir.


Economy Class grows from 247 to 281 seats, each 18in wide in a 3-3-3 configuration, up to 32in pitch. Each individual seat will feature an 11.6in IFE screen, and extra space at shoulder level for passengers in window seats, thanks to the near vertical side wall panels. >>

 


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