Airbus is working on a further A350-1000 range increase which Qatar Airways group chief executive Akbar Al Baker expects will create a "huge competitor" to the aircraft's rival, the Boeing 777-300ER.

The European manufacturer recently boosted the -1000's maximum take-off weight by 5t (11,000lb) to 316t, which is available on all aircraft through paperwork changes and does not include any fuel-capacity increase.

Al Baker says Airbus has disclosed plans to Qatar Airways for a further weight increase, along with additional fuel capacity.

"They are going to increase the MTOW shortly, and then there will be a second increase... which will be a very huge competitor for the -300ER, from what we can see," he says.

This second increase will be available "in the mid-term", adds Al Baker.

"It's a very promising aeroplane. They have told us they can increase the range of the -1000 by putting in additional tanks."

Sources indicate that the weight increase under study is a 3t increase to 319t available from around 2020, suggesting that structural changes could be required rather than simply paperwork. With the current highest MTOW of 316t, the A350-1000 has a range of 8,400nm (15,540km).

It is not clear how much additional range the new MTOW and fuel capacity will provide, or whether the plan requires additional thrust from the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97, currently rated at 97,000lb thrust (432kN).

Airbus declines to comment about the specifics of any proposed changes, saying only that it is "always looking at developments and talk to airlines about possible improvements".

It is possible the proposed -1000 improvements could be part of studies into an A350 variant in response to the Qantas "Project Sunrise" request for an ultra-long-range aircraft. Airbus has previously confirmed it is examining A350 developments to meet the Qantas requirement but declined to disclose whether these would be based on the -900 airframe or the larger -1000.

Boeing's response is likely to be based on the 777-8 platform, which is sized between the -900 and -1000.

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