Airbus will send two passenger-carrying A350 jets on a de facto world tour in the lead-up to the aircraft's launch at the end of this year.
An A350 fitted with business and economy cabins will conduct "route-proving flights around the world to major destinations it will serve", according to Airbus.
There will also be "long flight cabin testing" with flights lasting "anything from eight to twelve hours" says Chris Emerson, Airbus' senior vice-president of marketing.
"We will have Airbus employees as passengers because we need enough time to test all the systems, and make sure the airflow, humidity and temperature control is right" Emerson tells Australian Business Traveller.
Those passengers will enjoy "the full experience of the cabin," Emerson explains. "We'll run the galley to cook breakfast, make lunch, a snack and dinner, to make sure all the equipment is functioning properly."
However, passengers shouldn't count on everything running smoothly.
"The test engineers say this is where they like to play around and really cause problems. So they’ll take the inflight entertainment system down and see how the cabin crew can handle it, how they can fix it."
Airbus today revealed the first of the passenger-ready jets, dubbed MSN002, which is fitted with business and economy cabins, fully-functional kitchens and toilets plus a working inflight entertainment system.
Part of MSN002's test routine will see the plane sweat and shiver its way through 'hold and cold' trials, similar to those which saw a Boeing 787-9 baking under the Aussie sun earlier this year.
Airbus will soon add a second cabin-equipped model MSN005 to the test fleet, which will be tasked with 'route-proving flights around the world to major destinations it will serve'.
While Airbus hasn't trotted out an itinerary for its A350s, a glance through the list of the aircraft's customers – including Air France, Asiana, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, TAM and United, plus the Gulf trio of Emirates, Etihad and launch customer Qatar – will provide some hints as to which countries may get a flying visit from the next-generation jet.
Both the test aircraft will be dressed in an eye-catching 'Carbon signature livery' which reflects the significant role of carbon-fibre composites in the plane's construction.
However, Airbus won't be promoting the A350 flights in the same way as Boeing's Dream Tour for the 787, which drew sizeable crowds at airports around the world and was hailed as a welcome PR success for the company following considerable delays to the Dreamliner's commercial debut.
"The flights are really designed around the certification program, to test all the elements in different environments" Emerson tells Australian Business Traveller. "They're not designed designed around taking to customers."
The A350 has already made one 'virtual' flight in August last year, with 129 passengers and a Cathay Pacific crew inside a mock-up of the plane's cabin – dubbed Cabin Zero – took part in a four hour dry run complete with carry-on bags and a full meal service.
David Flynn is attending the Airbus A350 Cabin Reveal and Customer Definition Centre inauguration in Hamburg as a guest of Airbus.
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