Airbus is showing off its latest generation A350 in Auckland on Tuesday at the tail end of a global promotional tour aimed at wooing airline customers, including Air New Zealand.
At 73m long, the A350XWB-1000 is a slightly bigger version of a plane Cathay Pacific flies here daily and the new model will enter service with Qatar Airways later this month.
The A350-1000 can seat 366 passengers in a three-class configuration and will be scrutinised by Air New Zealand as a possible replacement for its Boeing 777-200s which will be phased out from its fleet next decade.
It is heavier and doesn't have the range of the smaller 66m long A350-900 already flying here but carries more passengers.
The A350-1000 being shown to Air New Zealand, the travel industry and the media will have a generic Airbus cabin fitted.
Airlines fit their own seats and other furniture in their own style and depending on how many passengers they want to get on board and the weighting they give to different classes of travel.
The aircraft coming here will arrive tomorrow night. On Tuesday morning it will be inspected on the ground by Air New Zealand, receive a Maori blessing and then do a demonstration flight lasting just over an hour. There will be no public access to the plane.
The A350XWB (standing for extra wide body) fuselage is made from large proportions of carbon-reinforced plastic, lighter and stronger than traditional construction that involves aluminium sheets being riveted together.
Combined with more efficient engines and better aerodynamics, the A350 uses about 20 per cent less fuel than the planes it is replacing around the world.
The A350-1000 shares 95 per cent common part numbers with A350-900, but has an extended wing trailing edge for lower approach speeds, new six-wheel main landing gear to carry its higher weight and more powerful Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 engines.
During the tour, the A350-1000 flight test aircraft (MSN065) will have visited 12 destinations to demonstrate the aircraft's features to airlines.
The itinerary will take it more than 55,500km, with stops in Doha, Muscat, Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei, Hanoi, Singapore, Bangkok, Sydney, Auckland, Tokyo and Manila.
Maria Luisa Lucas-Ugena is head of A350 product marketing and said the plane was ''extremely capable" with a long range and high seating capacity.
''It is appropriate for the Asia Pacific market which has growth and the need for range,'' she told the Herald from the Singapore Air Show.
Although Air New Zealand is a big fan of the single-aisle Airbus A320 and it variants, the European consortium has not sold any of its wide-body aircraft to airline.
She said she was confident the A350 family of aircraft, including the ultra long range (ULR) variant, bought by Singapore Airlines to fly to New York, would appeal to the airline.
Air New Zealand says Airbus wide-body planes are an option.
''We'll look to begin replacing our current Boeing 777-200 fleet in the first half of the next decade and the A350 is one aircraft in our consideration set which includes models from both Boeing and Airbus,'' a spokeswoman said.
Airbus and rival Boeing are competing hard to crack the ultra-long range market because of the growing popularity of non-stop flying.
Boeing is developing the 777X-8, a similar size plane to the A350-1000 with folding wingtips to fit into more airport gates. The United States planemaker it says will be able to fly more than 16,000km.
The 777X list price is put at US$360 million, ($496m) just below that of the A350-1000 which has a window price of US$366 million ($504m) although airlines get discounts according to where they are on the order cycle and how many planes they buy.
The new plane heading for Auckland is one of the three Airbus A350-1000 test aircraft and is equipped with 40 business class, 36 economy-plus class and 219 economy class seats. The demonstration flights will be operated by Airbus flight test crews.