Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

NZ to NY in a hop? Airbus touts new jet to Air NZ

Will the new Airbus A350XWB be on the shopping list for Air New Zealand too?
Will the new Airbus A350XWB be on the shopping list for Air New Zealand too?

Airbus says it is trying to sell Air New Zealand its ultra-long range Airbus A350XWBs which would be capable of flying from Auckland to cities such as New York.

At the launch of Cathay Pacific's A350-900 aircraft in Hong Kong overnight, the plane maker said it had done "a fair amount of work with Air New Zealand'.

Airbus executive vice president for Europe, Africa and Asia-Pacific Christopher Buckley said the ULR version of the plane was an ``interesting vehicle'' for Air New Zealand.

"We're not going to make it from Auckland to London but Auckland well into the Middle East and the other interesting possibility is Auckland to the east coast of the US.'' he said.

Watch: Inside the new Airbus A350XWB

Video

He said the Toulouse-based plane maker had established a good relationship with the New Zealand airline around the rollout of its Airbus A320 aircraft.

"We would do anything to see a few Airbus long haul aircraft in the Air New Zealand fleet and we'll be pulling out all the stops to do that.''

The long range version of the A350 can fly over 16,000km while the distance to New York from New Zealand is 14,185km.

Air New Zealand has previously said the A350 would be considered when it comes to refreshing its fleet later this decade. So far it has gone with Boeing aircraft - most recently the Dreamliner and 777 - for its longhaul operations.

The furthest the airline goes into the US is to Houston, Texas - services which it already boosting to meet high demand after starting them last year.

Buckley said his company had 798 orders for its A350s. Cathay Pacific is the fourth airline behind Qatar, Finnair and Singapore Airlines to get the planes.

Singapore Airlines will be using the new A350XWB to fly from Singapore to New York.  The plane is claimed to be 25 per cent more efficient that the aircraft it is replacing.
Singapore Airlines will be using the new A350XWB to fly from Singapore to New York. The plane is claimed to be 25 per cent more efficient that the aircraft it is replacing.

Singapore will use its A350 ULR to fly from its base to New York in what will be the longest passenger plane flight, a distance of 15,323km.

Airbus has avoided the years of delay that plagued the Dreamliner by adopting a more conservative approach but had still had some snags.

"As with any new programme we've had a few hiccups along the way- we've had issues getting seats and galleys in on time but in terms of meeting the performance numbers the aircraft is meeting its targets,'' he said.

"Our biggest problem now is that delivery slots are so far out that it's hard to convince airlines to buy an aircraft that is available in 2021 or something like that.

The orders had tapered off over the last two years but there had been renewed interest by airlines.

"We had a bit of a lull but we're seeing it coming back this year .''

The A350 would allow Cathay Pacific's to consider new destinations.

"It's going to pioneer all kinds of long haul new routes that they would not have the economies to do with any aircraft they've got today.''

Buckley said Airbus would be "very fortunate'' if it was paid the full list price of US$308 million per aircraft.

"We think with this aircraft with its capabilities it commands a pricing premium but that's not to say we'll sell them at list prices.

Grant Bradley travelled to Hong Kong courtesy of Cathay Pacific

- NZ Herald

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