An earlier graphic of a Singapore Airlines A350-900 in SIA livery


So much for ‘hoarding’ major orders for the Paris Air Show! Singapore Airlines has made its third and largest order for Airbus A350 airliners only weeks before both the show begins and the airliner concerned makes its first flight and become the first airline to commit to the Boeing 787-10X version of the Dreamliner.

Airbus was first out of the blocks with its statement.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has announced that it will purchase up to 50 more A350 XWB aircraft. The agreement covers a firm order for 30 more A350-900s plus options for a further 20 aircraft. The deal allows for the airline to select either the baseline A350-900 or the larger A350-1000 when exercising the options.

The latest agreement will represent the third order from Singapore Airlines for the A350 XWB. Upon confirmation, it will see the airline’s total firm orders for the all-new aircraft increase to 70, excluding options. The aircraft will be used by the airline on both medium and long haul routes.

“The latest announcement from Singapore Airlines is another major endorsement for the A350 XWB,” said John Leahy, Chief Operating Officer, Customers, Airbus. “As we move closer to first flight, demand for the A350 XWB continues to grow, especially for the larger models. Airbus is set to bring a step-change to the mid-size widebody market and we are proud to have Singapore Airlines on board in such a big way.”

The A350 XWB (Xtra Wide-Body) is an all-new mid-size long range product line comprising three versions and seating between 270 and 350 passengers in typical three-class layouts. The aircraft will bring new levels of efficiency to the mid-size market, using 25 per cent less fuel than existing aircraft in this size category and providing an equivalent reduction in CO2 emissions.

Assembly of the first A350 XWB to fly is complete, with an extensive flight test programme due to begin around mid-2013. Entry into commercial service of the first customer aircraft is scheduled for the second half of 2014.

To date Airbus has recorded 616 firm orders for the A350 XWB from 34 customers worldwide.

However Singapore Airlines has also committed to 30 of the third version of the Dreamliner family, the 787-10X which is expected to enter service toward the end of this decade.

Singapore Airlines had originally ordered both the A350-900 and the 787-9 (the second version of the Dreamliners that have just returned to service after a safety grounding worldwide) but punted the Boeings to its low cost carrier Scoot last year while ordering a second serving of the larger capacity Airbus model.

Both airliners make considerable use of composite materials in their pressurisation cycle sensitive load bearing components albeit differently in order to exploit their potential for weight saving.

For passengers the important question will be what Singapore Airlines does in its main cabin in both jets.  The 787 Dreamliners at a nine across format in economy are anything but ‘dreamy’ compared to the same number of seats in the cabin of an A350 across its wider dimensions.

Most 787 customers have ordered the jet with the un-dreamy like higher density format, which will ensure that long haul flight in such jets is an ordeal in seats every bit as uncomfortable as the tiny torture tubes in a short haul 737.

However in the 8 across standard cabin format Boeing originally proposed for the 787s the result is very different and notably more amenable compared to 9 across in Boeing’s own cabin simulator in Seattle. This configuration is also being flown in JAL and ANA Dreamliners today on longer distance routes.

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