Airbus has formally handed over a first A350 to the widebody twinjet type's first European operator, Finnair.
The Helsinki-based Oneworld carrier has ordered a total of 19 baseline A350-900s. Three more are to be delivered by year-end, seven in 2016-17, and the other eight by 2023, Finnair says.
Regular passenger flights are to begin on 9 October, with the aircraft being used initially on European routes, to Amsterdam and Oslo, for crew familiarisation.
On 21 November, Finnair will deploy the type for its first long-haul service to Shanghai. The A350 will be the "backbone" of the carrier's network expansion strategy to Asian destinations, says Finnair.
"With the A350, we get the fleet that our strategy requires, and we can start building our growth," says chief executive Pekka Vauramo.
Finnair aims for its Asian traffic in 2020 to be double that of 2010.
The twinjet's introduction is also set to double the airline's cargo capacity by 2020, which the carrier says is central to its network expansion.
Today, its long-haul fleet comprises eight A330-300s and seven A340-300s, Flightglobal's Fleets Analyzer database shows. Its short-haul fleet consists of 30 A320-family aircraft.
Finnair has configured the A350 to accommodate 297 passengers: 46 in business class, 43 in premium economy and 208 in economy. The business-class seats were manufactured by Zodiac Seats France and those in the economy sections by Zodiac Seats US, Fleets Analyzer shows.
Cabin features include wi-fi internet access, LED cabin lighting that can create a range of effects – including one mimicking the Northern Lights – and a dedicated lavatory for females travelling in business class. The interior has been designed by Finnish agency Dsign Vertti Kivi & Co.
Finnair commercial chief Juha Jarvinen says the interior and cabin service, plus a new "revolutionary" Panasonic IFE system, will provide passengers with a "unique Nordic experience".