This week in aviation news: Airbus A350-1000 aircraft takes flight, Fiji Airways places 737 MAX order, Lufthansa pilot strike impacts hundreds of thousands of travelers
On Thursday, the largest member of Airbus’ A350 wide-body family, the A350-1000, took its first flight out of its manufacturing facility in Toulouse, France. The A350-1000 is equipped to carry 366 passengers in a standard three-class configuration or a maximum of 440, and boasts a range of 7,950 nautical miles. Expected to enter service with Qatar Airways next year, the A350-1000 is approximately seven meters longer than the A350-900, and has received nearly 200 orders to date. The aircraft is powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 engines, and Airbus reports that it is 20 tons lighter and 25% more fuel efficient than its main competitor, Boeing’s 777. Airbus President and CEO Fabrice Brégier said, “we have seen today the world’s most modern and efficient passenger aircraft – the A350-1000 – in action for the very first time, adding soon to the successful A350 Family. My congratulations and thanks go to all the teams who have contributed to make today’s flight happen.” The smaller A350-900, which entered the market in January 2015, carries 325 passengers in a standard three-class configuration. Approximately 45 are currently in operation around the world.
Nadi-based Fiji Airways has placed an order for 5 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, in a $110 million-dollar deal announced on Wednesday. The new aircraft are expected to be delivered in 2018 and 2019, and will replace Fiji’s current Boeing 737 fleet which includes four 737-800s and one 737-700. "The improved operating economics and product enhancements were compelling reasons to consider renewing the current Boeing 737 aircraft," Fiji Airways Managing Director and CEO Andre Viljoen said. Fiji’s government has a majority stake in the airline, which will arrange its 737 MAX aircraft into two-class configurations carrying 170 passengers. The aircraft will fly both domestic and international flights from Nadi, carrying passengers to destinations including Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Somoa, and Solomon Islands. The 737 MAX is the updated version of Boeing’s mid-range, narrow-body aircraft series, and is expected to enter the market next year. To date, Boeing has received more than 3,000 for the aircraft orders to date.
A strike by Lufthansa’s pilot union late last week caused 1,800 flight cancellations affecting over 215,000 passengers. The union for the Frankfurt and Munich-based airline, Vereinigung Cockpit, is demanding a 22% wage increase over the next five years. On Friday, Lufthansa put forth an offer for a 2.4% increase this year with an additional 2% raise next year, which was promptly rejected. The union is allegedly planning further strikes for Tuesday and Wednesday next week, which would mark its 15th strike since April.