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Tue 1 Aug 2006 04:00 AM

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Regional airlines yet to commit to the A350 redesign

Airlines in the region are still “in talks” with Airbus about whether to take on the redesigned A350X-WB (extra wide body) despite the French manufacturer’s show of confidence at the Farnborough International Airshow last month, amid its recent troubles.

Two regional airlines that expressed an interest in the original design of the A350, are still reluctant to commit to the new design.

A350 customers had complained that proposed earlier version of the plane, first announced in late 2004, was not good enough to compete against Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.

The fuselage of the older version, was the same as the fuselage diameter of the existing A330 and A340 and therefore not wide enough.

Flag carriers Qatar Airways and Emirates Airline had expressed interest in the original A350, but told Aviation Business that they had still not yet made any firm decision to take on the newly launched XWB.

The fuselage of the A350 XWB will be 12 inches wider than that of the A330. The A350 cabin, at the level of the seat armrest, will be four inches wider than the 787, Airbus said.

The new long-range jet was unveiled by Airbus’ commercial boss, John Leahy, on the opening day of the UK’s Farnborough International Airshow.

Airbus said the new design is in “response to market demand for a medium capacity long range wide-body” aircraft. The XWB is more cost efficient, “extra environmentally friendly," and will be available from 2012.

Updesh Kapoor, spokesman at Qatar Airways, said: “Qatar Airways is looking at the redesigned A350 but it is still in talks with Airbus and currently the position is under evaluation."

A spokesperson at Emirates Airlines said: “We are evaluating options for our fleet, including the Airbus A350XWB and Boeing 787 aircraft, but have not yet made a decision."

Airbus has been through the mill over the last couple of months with the resignation of both co-chief executives of its parent company European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), - which owns 80% of Airbus - Noel Forgeard and Gustav Humbert, following the announcement of a redesign of the A350 and delays to the A380, which resulted in weak sales figures.

Former chief executive Humbert conceded that the delays to the A380, of up to a year, had been “a major disappointment for [its] customers and shareholders," and took responsibility for the setback by offering his resignation.

EADS and Airbus saw a 10% drop in the share price and the delays to the A380 wiped out $2.5 million of EADS stock three months before the A380 delays were announced.

The new chief executive, former deputy CEO of French building materials group Saint Gobain, Christian Streiff, has now been appointed.

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