* Airbus tries to avoid repeat of A380 delays
* Says first A350 on track for delivery to Qatar this year
* Exec: less customisation means plane's value will hold
(Adds comments on aircraft residual values, more on design
HAMBURG, April 7 European planemaker Airbus
unveiled on Monday the first cabin for its new
twin-engined airliner, the A350 XWB, vowing to avoid a repeat of
the delays caused by cabin design changes on its bigger A380
Airbus delivered the first A380 two years late, hit by
delays stemming from a surge in demand for customised interiors
and problems installing electrical wiring harnesses.
Executives said on Monday the first A350, Airbus's widebody
rival to Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, was still on track to
be delivered to launch customer Qatar Airways at the end of this
year, with certification in the autumn.
While it is offering customisation options, such as a choice
of seats and LED lighting, of which there are 16.7 million
different colours on offer, Airbus is hoping its new
customisation centre in Hamburg plus a catalogue of specific
options will reduce potential delays.
Suppliers are also certified ahead of being included in the
catalogue, another measure to prevent delays.
"It's enabling us to keep an eye on the industrial rampup,"
Chris Emerson, senior vice-president of marketing, told Reuters,
while standing in front of the first test A350 to be fitted with
a passenger interior.
"We don't want a repeat of the issue where aircraft aren't
being able to be delivered because we're waiting for cabin
elements," he said.
Emerson added that the tighter control over customisation
meant the aircraft's residual value would hold up better when it
came to the re-sale market.
"A high level of customisation is a value-destroyer,
especially on the wide bodies," Robert Korn, co-founder of
investor Apollo Aviation, which acquires mid-life and mature
aircraft, said at a conference earlier this year.
For example, Emerson said, the cabling on the A350's
in-flight entertainment system allows each seat to be moved by
four inches, thus saving costly re-wiring should a new owner of
a plane wish to reconfigure seat spacing.
BAGGAGE SPACE FOR ALL
Emerson said the A350 was six months away from entry into
service, and was already in the final assembly line stage. Plus
the cabin definition was locked in place and suppliers were now
delivering equipment, he said.
"With the A380 we weren't in that situation - we had a delay
for the customisation and designing of the first cabin," he
At present, it takes customers around 20 months to design
their cabin interiors for the A350. Emerson said the aim was to
get this down to just under a year once production is in
full-swing. That compares with a current time frame of 18 months
for the larger A380.
Airline customers spend two weeks at the new design centre
in Hamburg at the start of the cabin design process, making
choices regarding seat spacing, fabrics, lighting, lavatory
locations and even how many coffee machines to have on board.
The centre allows customers to see mock-ups of cabins and
create 3D digital images, something which Airbus hopes will
reduce last-minute design changes.
Responding to queries as to whether there was enough choice
for airlines, Didier Nasarre, head of the A350 programme, said
the catalogue was continually evolving and had already doubled
in size in the last year.
Airbus has won orders for 812 of the jets, which can seat
between 276 and 369 passengers, up to the end of March.
The new aircraft is 6 inches wider than the rival Boeing 787
and new baggage bins mean that even if every single passenger
carried on a suitcase there would be enough space for all,
(Reporting by Victoria Bryan and Cyril Altmeyer; Editing by