By Mary Kirby in Philadelphia
US Airways is taking a relaxed view of Airbus’s indecision on the A350 design, even if it results in the carrier’s order for 20 of the type being scrapped.
|US Airways is due to receive the first of its A350s in the "2010 timeframe"|
In a memorandum to employees, the airline’s president and chief executive Doug Parker says US Airways management understands Airbus “is having internal debate as to whether or not they shouldn’t start over on the A350”. He adds: “If they come back with a new aircraft, great. If they don’t and we don’t have an order any more, that’s fine. The merger’s done and [Airbus has] been paid back, so everyone’s happy.”
Airbus last year agreed a $250 million loan to aid in US Airways’ merger with America West Airlines and emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In exchange, the carrier became the US launch customer for the A350. It signed a firm contract for 20 of the type in a deal that included the deferral of its remaining A330 orders.
In recent months, however, some existing and potential A350 customers have called on the manufacturer to redesign the aircraft to make it more competitive with the Boeing 787.
Not every customer is taking as relaxed a view as US Airways to Airbus’s apparent indecision. Qatar Airways – which has a commitment for 60 A350s – says it is frustrated that the manufacturer will have lost a year in the development programme if it goes ahead with a redesign.
Confirmation by Airbus of the revamp would see the A330-based A350 design succeeded by an all-new aircraft with a wider fuselage and larger wing. This would have an entry-into-service target up to two years later than previously planned.
“At this point, the aircraft exists only on paper, but we are scheduled to take delivery of the first in the 2010 timeframe,” says Parker, noting that the aircraft “will likely replace the A330s and 767s and it’ll do so very economically because the fuel burn alone is some 20% lower”.
US Airways says it is not considering plans to replace the A330s and 767s with the Boeing 787 if the A350 deal is shelved.
“We have an order for the A350 and that’s where our head is at this time. We aren’t going to speculate beyond what might happen with the A350 because it’s simply still in progress,” the airline says. “Airbus is a terrific partner and they are taking the necessary time to consider their options. We’ll wait to hear from them.”