Airbus A350 cabin, seats revealed

By David Flynn, April 8 2014

Airbus has revealed the interior of its first passenger-ready A350 ahead of a late 2014 launch for the advanced jet.

The cabin of this special test aircraft is kitted out with both business class and economy cabins, as well as test equipment to keep a watchful eye on the jet as it goes through its paces.

Test aircraft are typically a bare bones affair – as our photo tour of Boeing's 787-9 ZB002 test jet showed – but this A350 is pretty much suited and booted.

Step inside for our exclusive photo-tour as Australian Business Traveller takes you from tip to tail of this special A350.

Note that the well-lit and oh-so-pretty photos in this set were issued by Airbus PR; the ones which are markedly less perfect, and often seem to have been taken during a disco lightshow, were snapped by AusBT. (Blame Airbus for the lightshow, as it couldn't resist showing off the A350's LED cabin lighting.)

Let's start with an introduction: meet MSN002 (the letters stand for Manufacturer Serial Number).

This is the first test aircraft in the A350 family to be fitted out with a full cabin.

It's also the first decked out in a new 'Carbon signature livery' to reflect the significant role of carbon-fibre composites in the plane's construction.

It's as much a showcase for the A350's cabin design and seating options as a showpony for the aircraft manufacturer itself.

After all, this is the first A350 that will whisk a full complement of passengers through the skies in a series of what Airbus calls 'early long flights'.

'Early' means prior to the aircraft's commercial debut with worldwide launch partner Qatar at the end of this year.

'Long' means flights of between eight and 12 hours, during which those passengers will enjoy a full meal service and working inflight entertainment system.

Read: Airbus to launch A350 'world tour' later this year

The lucky ones during these test flights will find themselves at the pointy end of the A350 where Airbus has installed two business class cabins using the familiar EADS Sogerma Solstys seats which afford direct aisle access for every passenger.

EADS is one of four business class seat suppliers listed in the Airbus catalogue of pre-approved 'premium' seats for airlines ordering the A350 – the others are Zodiac, Recaro and Jamco.

An Airbus spokesman confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that no first class seating is currently listed, although this will in time be added to the roster – especially for the larger and longer Airbus A350-1000, compared to the debutante A350-900.

The dressed-up business class cabin includes some set pieces.

For a wider view, here's a panoramic sweep through the A350's business class cabin.

Note how the cabin wall is very flat, compared to the curve of most aircraft.

Here's a closer view.

Airbus says this is part of the 'passenger-centric' thinking which went into the A350, in this instance so that travellers enjoy more personal space.

All overhead bins are designed to take five standard-sized cabin bags.

Down in economy Airbus has opted for slimline BEA Pinnacle seats in order to spruik maximum legroom and help highlight the A350's generous proportions – the plane's official title is the A350 XWB, with those letters standing for 'extra wide body'. 

The 3-3-3 layout adheres to Airbus' promise of a standard 18 inch seat width for the A350's cheap seats.

However, the company admits that at least one airline has ordered the A350 with a tighter-squeeze 10 across layout (3-4-3) where the seat width comes back to 17 inches.

Also read: Airbus A350 – the 'ten seat across' squeeze is on

Take a peek under the seat and something's missing: there's no floor-mounted control box for the inflight entertainment system.

The A350's video system works by locating the hardware for each group of three seats under the floor and connecting the seats with thin but high-capacity fibre optic cables. This frees up all of the space under each seat for your feet and personal carry-on bag.

The rest of the economy cabin looks, well, pretty much like you'd expect.

There are seats. Lots of seats.

Airbus will sell three versions of the A350: the compact A350-800, the mid-sized -900 and the super-stretched A350-1000.

These are expected to respectively seat 270, 314 and 350 passengers in a standard three-class cabin, although only at up to nine seats across in economy and not the tighter 10 abreast layout.

Here are some panoramic sweeps through the economy class cabin.

But there's still room for some serious testing to be done during flights of this special aircraft.

For example, plastic pipes snaking over many of the seats are filled with water and can heated to a variety of temperatures to simulate the cabin environment when hundreds of people are on board for hours on end.

Airbus says the heating systems run from 70 watts to 160 watts, with 90 watts being used to represent the average passenger.

This bank of monitors located at the front of one of the economy cabins allows Airbus engineers to keep track of pretty much everything that happens on the A350.

At the very rear of the A350 is a door to one of two upstairs crew rest areas.

We weren't able to clamber up into this loft space, but it's similar to that of the Boeing 787 and Boeing 777-300ER.

Airbus says it used flight attendants from Air France-KLM in designing the loft because they are apparently the world's tallest crew – so if they can climb up the stairs and settle into their bunk without bending into some yoga-like pose, then the space is good enough for any crew.

David Flynn is attending the Airbus A350 Cabin Reveal and Customer Definition Centre inauguration in Hamburg as a guest of Airbus.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

25 Apr 2013

Total posts 544

Oh no, not the 3-4-3 layout again...

GM
GM

Air NZ Airpoints

12 Mar 2014

Total posts 36

Can't agree more. Ten across on a B777 is bad enough. In a narrower A350 it would be brutal. Hope to avoid it...

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

07 Sep 2012

Total posts 151

+1. I will never fly cattle class in a 3-4-3 again.

QF

06 Dec 2013

Total posts 5

It's even worse than that - according to one of the first posted photos above, the poor cattle don't even get a roof over their heads! Talk about cheap.

And I can probably guess only one airline would do this, and it happens to be an US airline: United. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1381

Demo business minus centre bins - makes it look much better but ain't that practical

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

25 Apr 2013

Total posts 544

Good observations, moa999! Let's hope most airlines install center bins.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2014

Total posts 33

I guess it will depend on the layout in Business.

At the assumed five bags per bin, assuming about 2 bins per row (one on either side), a blind calculation would presume that would be enough, or at least it would need to be a heavy load (e.g. 2-2-2 layout and each brings two bags, with no bag stowage allowed around seat).

Air Canada - Aeroplan

07 Apr 2014

Total posts 6

I read somewhere that the centre bins will not be installed on any aircraft in J. Can't find the source at the moment though.

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

Staggered layout look indeed very neat – IMHO the best layout so far.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

Disagree - reverse herringbone much better, but YMMV. I like having room to step out easily but facing an angle is a-okay.

GM
GM

Air NZ Airpoints

12 Mar 2014

Total posts 36

If nothing else, hopefully the innovation of the AVOD gear being mounted under the floor will catch on in other aircraft/cabin fitouts. It makes a significant difference to long trips in cattle class...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Apr 2013

Total posts 47

On the 787 most airlines are going for 3-3-3 instead of the -2-4-2 similar to A330. 


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