Airbus delivered its first A350 aircraft to Japan Air Lines on Thursday, saying the specially tailored version would start operating on Japan’s busy domestic routes.
The aircraft is also expected to serve demand during the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, Japanese officials said.
Airbus clinched its first jet order from Japan Air Lines in 2013, cracking a big national market long dominated by the European firm’s main rival, Boeing.
The $9.5 billion deal came after a lengthy campaign to woo JAL officials who were unfamiliar with Airbus aircraft, including their distinctive side-stick controls.
JAL Chairman Yoshiharu Ueki, a former pilot, said an experience on the A380 simulator had helped sway his decision to choose Airbus for JAL, which at the time was one of only two full-service airlines globally without any Airbus aircraft.
“I have the urge to take the control stick on the ferry flight to Tokyo,” he joked at a webcast ceremony in Toulouse.
Boeing dominates the market for wide-body jets in Japan but there is a more mixed market for smaller narrow-body jets.
The A350 will fly to Japan using traditional fuel blended with alternative fuel, said Airbus sales chief Christian Scherer. Planemakers and airlines have reiterated pledges to cut emissions sharply amid growing environmental pressure in Europe.
The milestone event was attended by JAL Representative Director and Chairman Yoshiharu Ueki and Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer.
Altogether, JAL has ordered 31 A350 XWB aircraft, comprising 18 A350-900s and 13 A350-1000s. JAL will initially operate the A350-900 on high frequency domestic routes, while the larger A350-1000 will fly on the carrier’s long haul international network. The first aircraft will enter service on the airline’s Haneda – Fukuoka route at the start of September.
JAL’s A350-900 is configured in a premium three class layout, with 12 seats in First Class, 94 in Class J and 263 in Comfort Economy.
The ferry flight of the first JAL A350-900 is being performed with a blend of conventional and synthetic fuel, contributing to reduced CO2 emissions.
The A350 XWB offers by design unrivalled operational flexibility and efficiency for all market segments up to ultra-long haul (15,000km). It features the latest aerodynamic design, a carbon fibre fuselage and wings, plus new fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce engines. Together, these latest technologies translate into unrivalled levels of operational efficiency, with a 25 per cent reduction in fuel burn and emissions. The A350 XWB’s Airspace by Airbus cabin is the quietest of any twin-aisle and offers passengers and crews the most modern in-flight products for the most comfortable flying experience.
At the end of May 2019, the A350 XWB Family had received 893 firm orders from 51 customers worldwide, making it one of the most successful wide-body aircraft ever. (With Reuters report)