Airbus has robustly defended the prospects for its A350-1000, insisting its relatively slow sales are due to delivery slot constraints while dismissing Boeing's 777X proposal.

The airframer sold a net total of just three A350-1000s during 2012, although it secured its first deal for the type, with Cathay Pacific, since the aircraft was redesigned with higher-thrust engines.

"The -1000 will be a fantastic aircraft," said Airbus chief Fabrice Brégier, as the airframer unveiled its order figures for 2012. "We were right to change the engine, right to [make the improvements]."

He says the -1000 will give Airbus an "extremely powerful" long-range aircraft to complement the -900.

While Boeing has put forward the 777X project as a potential counter, Brégier says: "It's a non-aircraft. When they come up with firm orders, we'll talk about it."

He is bullish over the -1000's prospects for 2013, even going as far as to say: "The 777 is dead, one-to-one, against the A350-1000."

Chief operating officer for customers John Leahy says the 777X is a "paper aircraft" and insists it is evidence that Boeing is "worried" about the -1000.

"This should be a good year for the A350," he says, adding that only delivery slot constraints are holding up further sales of the -1000.

Leahy says there are no plans to revise the schedule for developing the A350-1000 with respect to the A350-800, which currently precedes it.

"We have 12,000 engineers around here," he says. "I think we're capable of doing two things at once."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news