In many ways the ULR version, the first of 7 ordered by Singapore Airlines to restart direct flights to New York – a 19 hour direct flight – has had a significant impact in the A359/35K programme in general.
Airbus – wisely – decided that they wouldn’t freeze A350 development in the way did with the A380.
This led to significant changes – mostly the kind only avgeeks like us would be bothered about, but airlines crave.
There are now a plethora of options on max take off weights, the A359 and A35K have both benefitted from small aerodynamic upgrades, the sculpted sharklets have grown 35% and been deployed as standard on both versions – starting with Iberia’s A359.
Quietly, Airbus have widened options for customers – and it’s not an unimportant process.
Airlines are fickle and in many ways it’s as much about keeping the customer until they take delivery, just in case they decided to bolt to Boeing and the 787, as it is attracting new buyers.
The new A359ULR is also the basis for Airbus offering up an even longer range version to meet Project Sunrise – Qantas direct flights to London from Sydney. These will require significant compromises, in seat numbers and weights no matter who produces the aircraft.
Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines will be launching direct flights later this year, having given up their A340-500’s, with their 100 business class only seats nearly 6 years ago.