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Airbus’s Biggest A350 Gets Boost as Qatar Doubles Order

Airbus SAS got a boost for the largest variant of its A350 wide-body aircraft after Qatar Airways Ltd., the first airline to take the jet, almost doubled the number of A350-1000s to 37 and dropped a smaller type.

Qatar, already among the biggest customers for Airbus wide-body jets, also increased its order of the A350-900s, the mid-sized and first variant to enter service from late 2014, by three units to 43 and entirely dropped a previous order for 20 smaller A350-800s, Airbus said in a statement today.

The decision confirms the market trend toward airlines wanting larger models, Airbus Chief Executive Fabrice Bregier said in the statement.

The Qatar Airways decision leaves Airbus with a shrinking backlog for the smallest A350 variant, raising doubts if it will stick with the model. The Toulouse-based planemaker has already seen several customers swap A350-800 orders for larger models, most recently Afriqiyah Airways.

The A350-800 will seat 270, while the A350-900 can accommodate 314 passengers and the -1000 model can handle 350. The A350-900 is the most popular, and is set to enter service three years before the largest model. Airbus has said it remains committed to building the A350-800, even while recognizing margins are higher for the larger versions.

Airbus could probably save at least 1 billion euros ($1.27 billion) by dropping the smallest model and concentrating its engineering resources on developing the bigger and more expensive A350-1000, Nick Cunningham, managing partner at Agency Partners in London, has said.

Rolls-Royce Plc has exclusive rights to offer engines for the A350-1000 and is the only engine maker offering powerplants for all three of the models.

Qatar dropping the A350-800 leaves Airbus with 98 of the smallest type on order.

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