Why business travellers will love the Airbus A350

By John Walton, November 12 2012

There's a new Airbus coming to town, and we think business travellers will love it.

That plane is the Airbus A350 XWB, which like the Boeing 787 is an advanced next-generation design with over 50% of the aircraft built composite materials such as carbon fibre.

It'll start commercial flights from 2014 on airlines including Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Qatar.

And the reasons you'll love it? Here are three of them.

'Just right' size: bigger than an A330, smaller than a 777

You won't be surprised that a plane whose initials standing for "Extra Wide Body" is wide. Really wide.

But the design decisions Airbus has made -- including creating a noticeably tall plane with an oval-shaped cabin -- mean extra room where it counts: from hip to shoulder.

Extra-wide body should mean extra-comfortable business class, as Airbus is suggesting in its A350 mockups.

In pure cabin width, the A350 is broader than the A330 that you'll have travelled on with Qantas or Virgin Australia, and eighteen inches wider than the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, its closest competitor.

Airbus is planning a 2-4-2 layout for premium economy in the A350 XWB, as this mockup of the A350-1000 demonstrates.

At 5.96m (19 feet 6 inches) across, long haul business class will mostly be a 1-2-1 configuration, while regional business class is most likely to end up as 2-3-2, with a dreaded middle seat.

Find out more about Airbus' plans for A350 business class in the pointy end and economy class down the back of the bus. 

Frequent flyers will cheer Airbus' new design for overhead bins, which ditches the old slam-door style in favour of super-sized swing bins similar to those introduced by Boeing.

Enough space for five rollaboard carry-on bags in each overhead bin is promised, with Airbus claiming that this is one extra bag per larger A350 bin compared with a 787 bin.

New construction methods provide a new cabin 'feel'

Since the A350 is made out of an increased proportion of modern composite materials rather than metal, the cabin pressure can be lower than previous generations, down to 6000 feet from the previous 8000 feet.

That means, like the 787, that the effects of altitude on your body are less, making travelling less tiring and jetlag less disruptive to your system.

Down the back of the bus you'll find a relatively comfortable seat in a 3-3-3 layout, or a more cramped 3-4-3 layout if your airline chooses.

Windows on board the A350 are extra-wide too: wider than the 787's but not as tall. Travellers who enjoy looking out the window will be pleased by the improvements from current aircraft.

You won't see Boeing 787 Dreamliner style polarising windowshades on board the A350, though.

Airbus has opted for conventional pull-up shades, saying the tried-and-tested technology is faster and more effective at blocking out light.

Fourth-generation inflight entertainment

Without getting too technical, Airbus is promising an even more all-singing, all-dancing entertainment system than you'd find today.

Panasonic's eX3 and Thales' TopSeries AVANT are currently the two options available for A350s, which provide more entertainment than you'll know what to do with.

To remain connected, Airbus is promising SBB (Swift Broadband) standard, plus Ku band currently available and next-gen Ka band when it's available.

It's not quite fourth-generation entertainment, but Airbus' superbly-detailed models suggest that "Numero" and "Boat" will be of interest to business class passengers.

See also:

John Walton travelled to Toulouse to attend the Airbus Innovation Days as a guest of Airbus. Catch up with all the news from the Innovation Days!

For more news, reviews and the very latest info for business travellers, follow us on Twitter: we're @AusBT.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

Yusef Danet

Yusef Danet

20 Oct 2011

Total posts 77

Don't you mean "bigger than A330, smaller than 777"?  I don't think it's smaller than 787. 

John Walton

John Walton

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 673

Oops! Sorry about that typo -- it's now been fixed.



Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 May 2012

Total posts 268

The sound of a 3-4-3 layout on a plane that is 'smaller than a 777' is really scary. I hope it is comfortable!



17 Nov 2011

Total posts 23

Good luck with 16" (40.6cm) seats, absolutely horrible (with 777 10 abreast aisles and armrest width)!!!  The A350 XWB is a full 10 inches (25.4cm) less than the 777, can't imagine that!

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