INSIGHT-Flying back on course: the inside story of the new Airbus A350 jet
* New carbon jet competes with Boeing 787
* Earlier version of A350 failed to win over customers
By Tim Hepher
PARIS, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Ten years ago, the boss of Qatar Airways, who takes his first new A350 jet this week, warned Airbus it was flying off course.
Boeing was knocking on his door with a "super-efficient" jet boasting 30 percent fuel savings thanks to a carbon-composite design.
In Toulouse, some Airbus engineers, riding high after overtaking Boeing and suspecting a short-lived marketing stunt, laughed off the future 787 with a "tail like a dolphin".
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker urged Airbus to take the 787 seriously and said its draft response, a quick fix to its A330 with new General Electric engines, was inadequate.
As Qatar Airways planned for rapid regional and long-haul growth, Al Baker recalls, "there was a requirement for an aircraft that has capacity that is optimal on two fronts: customer comfort and technologically forward-thinking".
That clamour for both cabin comfort and better economics eventually forced Airbus into a fundamental shift in strategy. Continued...