Airbus Group SE’s airliner unit is working on a new variant of its A350-900 wide-body that would allow Singapore Airlines Ltd. to restore nonstop U.S. flights and regain the record for the world’s longest airline sector.
Airbus, which began deliveries of the twin-engine model last year, is working on changes to the cabin layout that would reduce the aircraft’s weight and let Singapore Airlines reach New York economically by 2018, said Kiran Rao, the planemaker’s executive vice president for strategy and marketing.
Singapore Air halted near 19-hour direct flights from its home hub to New York in 2013, adding about five hours to the journey with stopovers. Chief Executive Officer Goh Choon Phong said in June there was no commercially viable jet available and that he was pushing both Airbus and Boeing Co. for proposals.
Rao said the A350 should be able to make the trip with 25 percent less fuel burn than older models, at the expense of a less dense layout than the usual 325-seat, three-class -900, which could be available “an awful lot quicker than Boeing.”
The U.S. manufacturer could offer a development of its 787-9 Dreamliner for extended operations if it wants to compete in that area, according to Richard Aboulafia, an analyst at Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia. “Its market potential is pretty small, but it’s prestigious,” he said.
Several other airlines have expressed an interest in such a variant, Rao said, while declining to identify them.
“I can’t go into details on the type of layouts they’re looking at but it would be a premium service,” he said. When Singapore Air last flew to the New York area directly it did so with just 100 business-only seats on a four-engine Airbus A340-500, an arrangement that ultimately proved non-viable.
The route, to Newark in New Jersey, was the longest non-stop commercial air service ever offered at 15,344 kilometers (9,536 miles).
Boeing’s older 777-200LR -- the longest-range jetliner available today -- could make the distance, according to the U.S. company, and will be used by Emirates to fly the 13,821 km between Dubai and Panama from February. That flight will become the longest single sector currently flown, beating Qantas Airways Ltd.’s Sydney-Dallas Fort Worth route by about 20 km.
The 777-200LR entered service in 2006 and the last delivery to an airline was more than a year ago in April 2014.