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The Next Generation of Flight

Time is money, as the old saying goes, and the latest breed of airplanes taking to the skies is giving new meaning to the cliché. Both Boeing and Airbus are rolling out a flurry of innovative advances in aviation that are transforming airline route networks worldwide. The speed of development is breathtaking, so here’s a look at the latest news.

Boeing 787-10

About 3,000 people gathered in North Charleston, SC, on March 25 to celebrate the delivery of Boeing’s first 787-10 to launch customer Singapore Airlines. The delivery took place at the Boeing South Carolina plant where its latest 787 model is manufactured.

The 787-10 is the largest of the Dreamliner family with a longer fuselage which allows it to carry a total of 330 seats in a standard two-class configuration. It has been designed to compete with Airbus’ A350-900 aircraft.

Thanks to its use of lightweight composites and advanced systems, Boeing says the aircraft offers the lowest operating cost per seat of any widebody airplane in service today with 20 to 25 percent better fuel efficiency per seat and lower emissions than the airplanes they replace.

With the addition of the 787-10, Singapore Airlines and its subsidiary Scoot become the first airline to operate all three Dreamliner models. Singapore Airlines has 48 additional 787-10s already on order, plus 20 of the new 777-9s.

In addition to Singapore Airlines, Emirates recently announced plans to order 40 of the next-generation aircraft. Other customers ordering the 787-10s include Etihad Airways, EVA Air, United Airlines and British Airways, putting a total of over 170 of the new Dreamliner variant on Boeing’s order books. It will join the 787-8 and 787-9 aircraft which are already in service – the Dreamliner family has a total of just under 1,300 orders.

Airbus A350-1000

At the end of February, Qatar Airways took delivery of its first A350-1000 aircraft and almost immediately put it in service on the London to Doha route. The airline is the launch customer of the new aircraft, which has a range of 8,000 nautical miles, is 23 feet longer than the A350-900 and has (in Qatar Airways’ configuration) an additional 44 seats (a total of 327 seats compared with 283 seats).

The A350-1000 has 46 of Qatar’s Qsuite business class seats – which debuted on the 777-300ER fleet last year – in a 1-2-1 configuration and 281 seats in economy class. The airline was also the launch customer of the A350-900 in 2014 and has 23 of the aircraft in the fleet to date. It has 76 of the A350 family aircraft on order and is the largest A350-1000 customer.

There have been around 170 orders for the A350-1000 from 11 customers, including Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, LATAM and Japan Airlines.

The A350-1000 is the manufacturer’s largest twin-engine airliner, designed to replace Airbus’ A340-600, and compete with Boeing aircraft including the 777-300ER and forthcoming 777-9. Airbus says the aircraft’s use of composite material allows for lower fuel consumption and carbon emissions per passenger. It also has an advanced air system technology found on the rest of the A350 family which delivers optimal cabin air quality.

Boeing 737 Max

Designed to succeed Boeing’s 737NG (next-generation) aircraft, the 737 Max family will compete with Airbus’ A320 neo family – to date the 737 Max 8 has received over 2,000 firm orders. The 737 Max 8 is the first variant of the aircraft and debuted with launch customer Malindo Air (a subsidiary of Indonesian low-cost airline Lion Air Group) in 2017.

The second, the Max 9, was just delivered to Lion Air’s Thai subsidiary this March. Still in development are the Max 7, Max 10, Max 10X and the high density Max 200. Other carriers which have taken Max 8 deliveries since its launch include Norwegian, Oman Air, Flydubai, Westjet, Silkair, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines. In all, Boeing says more than 95 customers have placed orders for over 4,300 aircraft in the 737 Max family, making it the fastest selling in the company’s history.

The aircraft has a range of 4,045 miles, enabling it to operate selected transatlantic routes – for example Norwegian has used the 737 Max to launch services between Ireland / Scotland and airports on the East Coast of the US.

Airbus A321 neo LR

Airbus has completed its first test flights of its forthcoming A321LR aircraft, ahead of a targeted entry into service of the fourth quarter of 2018, including a transatlantic flight from Paris to New York in February. The test flights set the stage for the aircraft to obtain its EASA and FAA certifications.

The A321LR features a new door configuration, enabling customers to operate the aircraft with up to 240 passengers. Airbus’ latest Airspace by Airbus cabin is also available on the aircraft.

The A321 neo family of aircraft has attracted over 1,900 orders from over 50 customers. Forthcoming operators of the A321LR include Norwegian, Air Transat, Aer Lingus, and all-business class carrier La Compagnie.

The single-aisle plane has a range of up to 4,600 nautical miles, thanks to a third Additional Center Fuel Tank (ACT), allowing it to operate routes such as New York-Paris, Lisbon-Recife, Dubai-Beijing, Kuala Lumpur-Tokyo and Singapore-Sydney.

Airbus A330-900 neo

The A330-900 neo took its first flight in October 2017, and has been designed to compete with the 787-8 and 787-9 Dreamliners for the claim to offer the lowest seat-mile-cost in the 300-passenger widebody category,

TAP Air Portugal will be the launch carrier for the A330-900 later this year, with 14 of the aircraft on order. There have been a total of around 220 orders for the aircraft across 13 carriers, with major operators set to include Air Asia X, Iran Air, Delta and Garuda Indonesia.

A -800 variant of the A330 neo is also under development, although there has so far only been one order for the aircraft, by Hawaiian Airlines.

The A330-900 neo will also be the launch aircraft for the Airspace by Airbus cabin design with features including larger overhead storage bins, “spacious and contemporary lavatories,” wider seats (18 inches in economy) and aisles, unobstructed under-seat foot space and LED technology ambient lighting.

Boeing 777-9

The 777-9 – part of the 777X series of aircraft – is set to enter service around 2020, with Lufthansa as the launch customer. The German carrier has 20 of the 777-9s on order, and will debut it latest fully-flat business class on the aircraft, featuring direct aisle access for all customers, and a staggered 1-2-1 / 1-1-1 configuration, resulting in impressive looking “throne seats” in the middle of the 1-1-1 rows.

Around 275 777-9s have been ordered by seven airlines including Etihad, Singapore Airlines, ANA, Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways and Emirates – the last of which has ordered 115 of the aircraft.

The 777-9 is 9.5 feet longer than the existing 777-300ER and seats 414 passengers – a shorter 777-8 variant is also under development, and the 777-10 has also been proposed which would stretch the 777-9 by a further four rows.