Following weeks of speculation, British Airways parent company IAG yesterday announced that it had placed an order for 18 of Airbus’ new wide-bodied A350-1000, with an option for a further 18 at a later date.
In the past, British Airways was one of Boeing’s most loyal customers and, even today, is the world’s largest operator of the Boeing 747 with some 52 of the aircraft in its fleet. However, many of these 747s are approaching the end of their operational service (as are many of the airline’s Boeing 767s) so British Airways has been actively pursuing new aircraft orders as it looks to renew its ageing fleet. The first big, new orders were actually placed back in 2007 – an order for 12 of the giant new Airbus A380 plus 24 of Boeing’s ground-breaking new 787 Dreamliner. Delays in the development of both aircraft mean that deliveries have been pushed back by several years – British Airways takes delivery of its first A380 this July while its first 787, further delayed by the aircraft’s grounding this January, is now expected to be delivered sometime in the autumn.
At the start of April, rumours began to surface that British Airways was close to a major deal with Airbus for the A350. It came as something of a surprise then when, within days, the airline confirmed an order for a further 18 Boeing 787s (actually the confirmation of an earlier option). Today’s announcement of the order for the A350-1000 means that British Airways now has orders for 72 new long-haul aircraft – split between 30 for Airbus and 42 for Boeing – for delivery between now and 2023.
One order which hasn’t been split is that for the engines to power these new aircraft, all of which will use Rolls Royce Trent series engines. The order for the A350 alone is said to be worth over £1 billion to the Derby based company.
Commenting on the order, IAG Chief Executive Willie Walsh had this to say: ”The A350-1000 will bring many benefits to our fleet. Its size and range will be an excellent fit for our existing network and, with lower unit costs, there is an opportunity to operate a new range of destinations profitably. This will not only bring greater flexibility to our network but also more choice for our customers. Both aircraft will provide further cost efficiencies and environmental benefits with fuel cost per seat improvements of more than 20 per cent. This order will also secure jobs in Britain and Spain. The A350′s wings are made in Britain while its horizontal tail plane, horizontal tail plane boxes and lower wing covers are made in Spain. Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines are assembled in Britain”.