PARIS: Uncertainty around A350-800 plans

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Uncertainty is growing around the true status of Airbus's plans for the A350-800, following the announcement of a revised development schedule for the three member widebody family earlier this week.

Qatar Airways is launch customer for all three variants and was due to receive its first A350-800 "shrink" in 2014 under the original development schedule. The airline's chief executive Akbar Al Baker told Flightglobal that while the A350-800 is now officially due to enter service in 2016, Qatar Airways "has yet to receive confirmation on A350-800 availability and timing".

Flightglobal has learned that some customers are being encouraged to switch to the larger -900 variant as part of contract renegotiations brought about as a result of the decision to redefine the -800 in 2009 as a shrink derivative of the -900 rather than an optimised variant.

Airbus denies there are plans to shelve the -800 variant, and says the decision to delay the service entry by a year was taken to allow it to concentrate on the ramp-up of the -900, which is due to fly late next year.