Qatar Airways would be interested in buying a stretched A350-1000 derivative should Airbus decide to build one, but only if it offers enough of a step over the rival Boeing 777-9X.
The airline is already a major customer for the A350, holding orders for 80 XWBs and being launch operator for both the -900 and -1000. However at the Dubai air show in 2013 Qatar Airways was among the airlines signing up for Boeing’s larger, revamped 777X. It placed orders for 60 aircraft (10 -8X and 50 -9X), for delivery from 2020.
Qatar Airways Group chief executive Akbar Al Baker tells Flightglobal that he believes Airbus must develop a larger A350 to compete effectively with Boeing and his airline is a potential customer.
“We would be interested in a stretch of the A350-1000. Airbus has no alternative – to be competitive it will have to do something that is bigger and better than the 777-9X,” he says.
To achieve this, Al Baker says the A350 stretch will need to incorporate “new engine technology” and doubts that the twinjet’s existing Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine could be adapted for the larger variant as the powerplant “is already at its fullest” for the A350-1000.
Despite the large 777X commitment, Al Baker would still see a role for a larger A350 in the Qatar Airways fleet, should it offer sufficient performance: “It would be bigger than the -9X and we believe it will have a superior fuel burn,” he says.