International Airlines Group (IAG) and subsidiary British Airways have signed a memorandum of understanding to buy 18 Airbus A350-1000 widebodies and to option 18 more, as part of the airline’s long-haul aircraft fleet renewal and modernization strategy.
IAG, owner of both British Airways and Iberia, has also secured commercial terms and delivery slots that could lead to firm orders for the Airbus A350 XWB for Iberia, according to Airbus.
However, adds the manufacturer, IAG will only place firm orders when Iberia is in a position to grow profitably, having restructured and reduced its cost base.
The choice of the A350-1000 follows British Airways’ decision in 2007 to order 12 Airbus A380 superjumbos, the first of which will be delivered this summer.
“The A350-1000 will bring many benefits to our fleet. Its size and range will be an excellent fit for our existing network and, with lower unit costs, there is an opportunity to operate a new range of destinations profitably,” says Willie Walsh, IAG’s chief executive.
“This will not only bring greater flexibility to our network but also more choice for our customer,” adds Walsh.
The A350-1000 is the largest member of the Airbus A350 XWB (Xtra Wide-Body) family, which will seat up to 350 passengers in three classes, with a range capability of 8,400 nautical miles (15,500 kilometers). The A350 XWB Family includes the A350-900 and A350-800, seating 314 and 270 passengers respectively.
Airbus claims that, compared to its nearest established competitor (the Boeing 777 family), the A350 XWB family will reduce fuel burn by 25 per cent.
British Airways currently has 112 Airbus A320-family aircraft in its fleet, but until its first A380 is delivered in July does not operate any Airbus widebody jets.
However, BA is one of only a few airlines to operate all members of the A320 family: the A318, A319, A320 and A321.
British Airways first became an Airbus operator in 1988, when it began flying 10 A320-100s inherited in its take-over of British Caledonian Airways, which had originally ordered the aircraft but did not get time to operate them before it was purchased. These were among the first A320s off the production line.
The airline added the A319s to its fleet in 1999 and the A321 in 2004.
British Airways began operating A318s in 2009, operating two of the type in all-business class configuration from London City Airport (LCY) via Shannon westbound to New York JFK and non-stop eastbound from JFK to LCY.