Airbus targeting 777 with its A350

One has to hand it to Airbus. Like a couple on the edge of divorce who pulls it together to present a brave face at the family reunion, the team from Toulouse put on a great performance last week.

Analysts are applauding the announcement of the new A350XWB – or “extra-wide body” – which wags on this side of the Atlantic have dubbed the A350 “Xbox.”

The Xbox is a smart play, Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia told his clients in a letter this week.

The A350 originally was intended to counter the Boeing Co.’s 787, which seats between 200 and 300 people (assuming, as most do, Boeing goes ahead with its proposed 787-10).

But this newest A350 will come in 250- to 350-seat versions, meaning it will take on Boeing’s larger 777s.

“We’re cautiously optimistic about this,” Aboulafia said. “Going after the 777 is way smarter than going after that heart of the 787 market.”

Airbus won’t be able to get the Xbox aloft until 2012, but “by 2012, the 777 will be vulnerable,” he added.

Leeham Co. analyst Scott Hamilton agreed.

“That’s a 777 killer,” he said. By the time the A350 enters service, the 777 will have been in service for 18 years, based on a design of the early 1990s. By then, it will have relatively old technology, systems and engines.

It’s not a foolproof plan, however. The analysts noted that by targeting the 777, Airbus is largely giving up on the market for 200- to 250-seat jets. That could be big. Hamilton said the decision could hand Boeing as many as 1,000 787 orders – uncontested.

“They’re making a mistake,” he said.

But in Aboulafia’s view, Airbus had no choice but to move ahead with some sort of plane in the mid-size market.

“They could wait a few years until they get the right mix of new enabling technologies and leapfrog the 787, but that would mean spending 2009 through 2016 or beyond as a niche player,” he said.

Airbus got a seeming endorsement for the Xbox when Singapore Airlines placed an order for 20 of them, but Hamilton said we shouldn’t read too much into that. He speculated that the Singapore order – which included more A330s and A380s – was Airbus’ way of defusing the airline’s anger over the delays with its A380 deliveries, which will arrive a year behind schedule.

“I betcha Singapore is getting their A330s for next to nothing,” he said.

Airbus also will have to deliver on its Xbox promises, the analysts said – not an easy task. New chief executive Christian Streif “has his work cut out for him,” Hamilton said.

Still and all, “this announcement was a good start,” Aboulafia said. “There’s only one way to eat a rhinoceros – one bite at a time.”

That’s not to say Boeing had a bad air show. The home team announced orders for 79 jets – fewer than Airbus but more than enough to keep its wide lead in sales for the year.

And Boeing vice president of sales Scott Carson clearly had the week’s top soundbite.

When told that his Airbus counterpart, John Leahy, was boasting that the Europeans were serving “by far the best lunch at the air show,” Carson was quick to reply.

“It’s great that they have great food,” he told The Washington Post. “But we’re not selling food.”

Reporter Bryan Corliss: 425-339-3454 or

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Members of Gravitics' team and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen stand in front of a mockup of a space module interior on Thursday, August 17, 2023 at Gravitics' Marysville facility. Left to right: Mark Tiner, government affairs representative; Jiral Shah, business development; U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen; Mike DeRosa, marketing; Scott Macklin, lead engineer. (Gravitics.)
Marysville startup prepares for space — the financial frontier

Gravitics is building space station module prototypes to one day house space travelers and researchers.

Orca Mobility designer Mike Lowell, left, and CEO Bill Messing at their office on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023 in Granite Falls, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Could a Granite Falls startup’s three-wheeler revolutionize delivery?

Orca Mobility’s battery-powered, three-wheel truck is built on a motorcycle frame. Now, they aim to make it self-driving.

Catherine Robinweiler leads the class during a lab session at Edmonds College on April 29, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Grant aids apprenticeship program in Mukilteo and elsewhere

A $5.6 million U.S. Department of Labor grant will boost apprenticeships for special education teachers and nurses.

Peoples Bank is placing piggy banks with $30 around Washington starting Aug. 1.
(Peoples Bank)
Peoples Bank grant program seeks proposals from nonprofits

Peoples Bank offers up to $35,000 in Impact Grants aimed at helping communities. Applications due Sept. 15.

Workers build the first all-electric commuter plane, the Eviation Alice, at Eviation's plant on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Arlington, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Arlington’s Eviation selects Seattle firm to configure production plane

TLG Aerospace chosen to configure Eviation Aircraft’s all-electric commuter plane for mass production.

Jim Simpson leans on Blue Ray III, one of his designs, in his shop on Friday, August 25, 2023, in Clinton, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Whidbey Island master mechanic building dream car from “Speed Racer”

Jim Simpson, 68, of Clinton, is using his knowledge of sports cars to assemble his own Mach Five.

Inside the new Boeing 737 simulator at Simulation Flight in Mukilteo, Washington on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
New Boeing 737 simulator takes ‘flight’ in Mukilteo

Pilots can test their flying skills or up their game at Simulation Flight in Mukilteo.

An Amazon worker transfers and organizes items at the new PAE2 Amazon Fulfillment Center on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amazon cuts ribbon on colossal $355M fulfillment center in Arlington

At 2.8 million square feet, the facility is the largest of its kind in Washington. It can hold 40 million “units” of inventory.

A computer rendering of the North Creek Commerce Center industrial park in development at 18712 Bothell-Everett Highway. (Kidder Mathews)
Developer breaks ground on new Bothell industrial park

The North Creek Commerce Center on Bothell Everett Highway will provide warehouse and office space in three buildings.

Dan Bates / The Herald
Funko president, Brian Mariotti is excited about the growth that has led his company to need a 62,000 square foot facility in Lynnwood.
Photo Taken: 102312
Former Funko CEO resigns from the Everett company

Brian Mariotti resigned Sept. 1, six weeks after announcing he was taking a six-month sabbatical from the company.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Paper or plastic? Snohomish County may require businesses to take cash

County Council member Nate Nehring proposed an ordinance to ban cashless sales under $200. He hopes cities will follow suit.

A crowd begins to form before a large reception for the opening of Fisherman Jack’s at the Port of Everett on Wednesday, August 30, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Seafood with a view: Fisherman Jack’s opens at Port of Everett

“The port is booming!” The new restaurant is the first to open on “restaurant row” at the port’s Waterfront Place.