* Abu Dhabi airline cancels 7 next-generation A350-1000s
* Aircraft worth over $2 billion at today's list prices
* Same Gulf carrier cancelled 6 A350-1000s in December
* Airbus says A350-1000 is more efficient than Boeing 777
By Tim Hepher
PARIS, May 7 European planemaker Airbus suffered
a fresh setback to its largest twin-engined jet development, the
A350-1000, when it emerged that Gulf carrier Etihad had
cancelled seven aircraft worth $2.3 billion at current list
The Abu Dhabi-based airline has now halved its order for the
350-seat jet in four months from 25 in November to 12 at the end
of April, Airbus monthly figures showed on Monday.
Airbus has not sold any of the largest variant of its
next-generation A350 since beefing up the design with bigger
Rolls-Royce engines last June, while Boeing has been
notching up record orders of the wide-body 777.
Airbus says it is confident a market will flourish for the
long-distance jet and has said its only difficulty is the
shortage of available delivery slots before 2018 or 2019.
"The A350-1000 is consistently more capable than the
(Boeing) 777-300ER. It will cover the world with 25 percent less
fuel burn," an Airbus spokesman said.
Airbus pushed back development of the stretched A350-1000 by
two years when it decided to overhaul the design last year. The
$320 million jet is now due to enter service in mid-2017.
"While we have reduced our firm orders, our 25 options and
purchase rights for this fleet remain in place and will no doubt
play a crucial role in the airline's growth. This is not a new
cancellation," an Etihad spokesman said.
While smaller versions of the A350 are designed to compete
with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, built using similar carbon-fiber
materials, the A350-1000 targets Boeing's older 777-300ER.
The Boeing 777 is a 1990s metallic aircraft but dominates a
category of its own with seating for 365 passengers in normal
layout and a long range. Some A350 customers such as Qatar
Airways and Dubai's Emirates have criticized the A350-1000 for
failing to deliver a knock-out punch to Boeing's mini-jumbo.
Boeing is considering a refresh of its 777 with new wings
and new engines to enter service near the end of the decade.
Etihad ordered the next generation of Airbus jets in July
2008, saying it would be among the world's most efficient.
The reduced A350-1000 order comes as Airbus makes a
relatively slow start to the year after dominating the market in
2011 thanks to a revamp of its best-selling medium-range A320.
Boeing is catching up with a makeover of its own most-sold
737 model and is so far on track to win the annual order race
against its only serious rival for the first time since 2006.
Airbus took a total of 12 new orders in April, bringing its
total for the year to 112. Adjusted for cancellations, net
orders for the year to date stood at 95 passenger jets.
The EADS subsidiary delivered 183 aircraft in the
January-April period, including five A380 superjumbos.
Boeing sold 444 aircraft between the start of the year and
May 1, or a net total of 415 when adjusted for reductions that
included a high-profile Chinese cancellation of 24 Dreamliners.