According to reports coming from the Wall St Journal, British Airways is close to placing a significant order for the new Airbus A350. If true, it will be a major coup for the European manufacturer and a source of great disappointment, and perhaps a little worry, for Boeing.
Although British Airways has ordered 12 Airbus A380, the airline has traditionally been seen as a key customer of Boeing. British Airways is still the world’s largest operator of the Boeing 747, with over 50 in its fleet, as well as 46 777-200′s, 6 777-300′s and 21 767-300′s.
Many of these aircraft are getting on in age however and British Airways is in the process of a major fleet renewal program. Aside from its 12 Airbus A380′s on order, British Airways has so far taken delivery of 6 Boeing 777-300′s and placed an order for 24 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, split between the 8 & 9 series models. Most industry observers therefore expected any new British Airways to be for further 787′s and / or 777-300′s, or perhaps even as a launch customer for the new 777-x although this last model hasn’t even been formally offered by Boeing yet and wouldn’t be available until 2019 or 2020 at the earliest; the past delays and current problems with the 787 may have made British Airways more than just a bit nervous.
If British Airways is to order to the Airbus A350 it is likely to focus on the 1000 series, the largest of the 3 models. The A350 is of a similar size to the Boeing 777-300 and will be viewed as a natural successor to the 747 on routes where the A380 is too large; the A350-1000 and 777-300 don’t have the same passenger capacity as the 747 but are far more fuel efficient. The 24 Boeing 787′s that British Airways has ordered will replace the older 767′s and 777-200′s in its fleet which probably leaves space for an order of around 30 further aircraft, possibly split between the 787, A350 and even, still, the new 777-x.