Airbus keeps tight rein on cabin design as A350 launch nears

Mon Apr 7, 2014 10:18am EDT
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HAMBURG (Reuters) - European planemaker Airbus (AIR.PA: Quote) unveiled on Monday the first cabin for its new twin-engined airliner, the A350 XWB, vowing to avoid a repeat of the delays caused by cabin design changes on its bigger A380 super jumbo.

Airbus delivered the first A380 two years late, hit by delays stemming from a surge in demand for customized interiors and problems installing electrical wiring harnesses.

Executives said on Monday the first A350, Airbus's widebody rival to Boeing's (BA.N: Quote) 787 Dreamliner, was still on track to be delivered to launch customer Qatar Airways at the end of this year, with certification in the autumn.

While it is offering customization options, such as a choice of seats and LED lighting, of which there are 16.7 million different colors on offer, Airbus is hoping its new customization centre in Hamburg plus a catalogue of specific options will reduce potential delays.

Suppliers are also certified ahead of being included in the catalogue, another measure to prevent delays.

"It's enabling us to keep an eye on the industrial rampup," Chris Emerson, senior vice-president of marketing, told Reuters, while standing in front of the first test A350 to be fitted with a passenger interior.

"We don't want a repeat of the issue where aircraft aren't being able to be delivered because we're waiting for cabin elements," he said.

Emerson added that the tighter control over customization meant the aircraft's residual value would hold up better when it came to the re-sale market.

"A high level of customization is a value-destroyer, especially on the wide bodies," Robert Korn, co-founder of investor Apollo Aviation, which acquires mid-life and mature aircraft, said at a conference earlier this year.   Continued...

An Airbus A350 XWB flight-test aircraft is towed during a media-day at the German headquarters of aircraft company Airbus in Hamburg-Finkenwerder, April 7, 2014. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer