Planemaker Airbus unveiled its new A350-1000 in Auckland this morning - and the largest of its twin-aisle fleet did not disappoint.

As promised, Airbus' newest addition to the A350 generation was longer, quieter, and more spacious than previous models, featuring a 366-seat cabin - 13 per cent more than the A350-900 which had 325 seats.

Its economy class featured a nine-abreast seating arrangement.

The demo craft also had a flight test engineer station, where a technical team were adjusting humidity and temperature levels in the cabin.


One of three demo planes was in Auckland this morning as part of a three-week world tour ahead of the type's first delivery to launch customer Qatar Airways on February 20.

The aircraft undertook an hour-and-a-half demonstration flight which was open to media, technical crew, key stakeholders, Auckland Airport executives and several Air New Zealand staffers.

Airbus has been wooing airlines around the world, including the national carrier, which confirmed the Airbus wide-body planes were being considered as a replacement option for its Boeing 777-200 fleet, which would be phased out in the first half of the next decade.

The aircraft also operated a test flight in Sydney yesterday with a number of Qantas senior executives onboard, including Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce who was also considering the new plane.

In a briefing ahead of the Auckland flight, head of A350 product marketing Marisa Luisa Lucas-Ugena said the company was aiming to have planes available for the New Zealand market by 2021-2022, adding the Asia-Pacific market was a main focus for the company.

"We have 14 customers in Asia, eight of them have already received A350-900s. When you look at the map [of the Asia-Pacific region] you can see we have a lot of customers there but the Pacific section is a bit light at the moment with A350s. We plan on changing that."

Airbus pilot Hugues Van Der Stichel in the cockpit of the A350-1000. Photo / Holly Ryan
Airbus pilot Hugues Van Der Stichel in the cockpit of the A350-1000. Photo / Holly Ryan

Lucas-Ugena said by the end of January, Airbus had 854 orders for the A350 with 146 having been delivered. Of the orders, 169 were for the A350-1000.

"We designed this plane to cover long-haul routes, so it has the efficiency to cover the market, and also the comfort needed for a good flight experience on the longer flights," Lucas-Ugena said.

"You'll notice if you fly on one of these planes for a longer flight, you don't feel tired or dehydrated after coming off. It's been designed specifically for this."

The aircraft on display today had 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.

Overhead cabins had been kept to the sides and removed in the centre aisle, giving a heightened ceiling and a roomier feel.

The plane, Airbus's largest in the twin-aisle category, has been divided into three cabin classes: economy, premium economy and business.

The A350 XWB (extra wide body) family had been particularly successful in the Asia-Pacific region, the company said, with 14 major airlines ordering 287 aircraft, representing one third of its total orders.

The demonstration flight was operated by Airbus flight test crews.

The A350-1000 is due to visit Tokyo and Manila at the conclusion of its 12-country tour before returning to Toulouse.

Qatar Airways, which will be receiving its first A350-1000 at the end of the month, has 37 of the planes on order.

The airline's chief executive Akbar Al Baker said at a media briefing in Canberra today that the aircraft was ''incredibly fuel efficient''.

Besides new engines, the plane's wings have 4 per cent greater area than the earlier model A350-900, which also helped it fly more efficiently.

The airline would soon be announcing routes it will fly with the new model aircraft.

Cathay Pacific was the first to use the A350-900 into Auckland and said it has 20 of the stretched model on order, with the first to be delivered by the middle of the year.

The Hong Kong-based airline will use it to fly to Washington DC in September, the longest on the Cathay Pacific network.

It will also use the plane on its Tel Aviv route from Hong Kong.

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.