12 JANUARY 2015


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Article from BTNews 12 JANUARY 2015

COMMENT: Airbus A350 XWB at Heathrow

In what is probably a unique occasion Qatar Airways will stage a special promotional flight for the all new Airbus A350 XWB at Heathrow Airport this morning (Monday 12 January 2012).  Heathrow may be very busy but slots have been found.

Making this ‘party’ so special is that not only is it a pure two-hour air experience (other inaugurals have always been to a destination) but the aircraft will not even be a Heathrow user.  On 15 January Qatar Airways will introduce the A350 on its daily Frankfurt – Doha services.  At some point in the future British Airways is expected to take on the A350, but that is a long way off.  Looking ahead with 41 operators ordering 771 A350s to date no doubt the 'plane, in other paint schemes, will be seen at Heathrow before the BA delivery.  All the airlines will be watching today.

Qatar Airways has already launched the A350, at Toulouse just before Christmas, and also with a spectacular presentation in Doha last week, mainly for the Gulf market, and clearly to enable the airline’s owners to see their new plane. 

With the London launch the airline has acknowledged Heathrow as the true hub of the world’s airlines (even if it now has lost first place in terms of actual numbers), the commercial centre of the globe, and also the best connected city in terms of the media. 

The flight is also an opportunity to demonstrate the quietness of the plane. 

Matt Gorman, Heathrow’s Director of Sustainability, is expected to speak about the unique noise mitigation aspects of the aircraft during this inaugural.  The A350 has the automatic Noise Abatement Departure Procedure that reduces thrust automatically after take-off in order to reduce noise while flying over inhabited areas around airports.

 The A350XWB is certified well below current & future noise regulations. (21 decibels below ICAO Chapter 4).

What is also perhaps forgotten is that the XWB (and it is wider than the A330, by about one foot), whilst assembled in Toulouse, could be considered a British aircraft, Rolls-Royce the only engine supplier with a special version of the Trent, wings built at Airbus Chester and Messier-Bugatti-Dowty (Gloucester) supplying the landing gear.  Airbus Bristol is also involved, leading an extended supply chain of over 400 British companies.

The Business Class is another quantum leap forward and the airline has dropped First except for its limited A380 operations. Economy will always be mass transport.  With Qatar Airways there are 18-inch wide seats, a 9-across layout with 10-inch video screens with a very comprehensive selection, plus of course the latest wi-fi.  The catering is of a higher standard than most and has a full bar service.

No premium Economy with Qatar, CEO Akbar Al Baker pointing out the quality of the ‘back end’ means that it is not required. 

Today’s flight should be very interesting.

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