Airbus is continuing to engage with Qantas as the carrier works to set out its requirements for an aircraft that would fly non-stop from Sydney to London and New York.
Speaking to reporters during the IATA AGM in Sydney, Airbus chief commercial officer Eric Schulz says that the carrier is undergoing in an “iterative process” to establish the boundaries for what it will require the jet to do.
“They have a bit of homework to do before they will be able to get to a final RFP, which will really define what they want. They are still in that iterative process of understanding what this means in terms of requirement,” he says.
Airbus and Boeing are looking to optimise their A350-900ULR and 777-8 to allow them to meet Qantas’s desire of flying nonstop from Australia’s east coast to the US east coast and Europe with a full passenger load.
Schulz admits however that it is not locked on the -900ULR as its sole offering for the Project Sunrise requirement.
"All bets are open, we are looking at both airplanes. We know what we can do with the -900, because that is what is done today with Singapore Airlines, and we also look at what we can do with the -1000.”
He also hints that there may some "slight modifications" to the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines for the ultra-long-haul mission.
The Oneworld carrier has indicated previously that it intends to place an order in 2019 for aircraft that could deliver from 2023 onwards.
In March, it launched nonstop services from Perth to London using Boeing 787-9s that are configured with only 236 seats.
Schulz says that there will likely be a wider market for an ultra-long-haul optimised A350.
“I will not pretend that we will sell 1,500 airplanes - a reasonable assumption could be in the neighborhood of 50 or 100 airplanes in total for these kind of airplanes for ultra-longhaul.”