Is The Airbus A350-1000 Blowing Away The Boeing 777-300ER?

| About: The Boeing (BA)
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Summary

Airbus numbers are somewhat more positive than my analysis.

Airbus will face challenge of keeping Airbus A350 meaningful after 2020.

With the Boeing 777X, Boeing might be one step ahead again.

In this article I will look whether the Boeing (NYSE:BA) 777-300ER, one of Boeing's best sellers, is really blown away by competition from the Airbus (OTCPK:OTCPK:EADSF/OTCPK:OTCPK:EADSY) A350 family.

Although the comparison made in this article is only valid for a couple of years, until the Boeing 777X will roll out of the Boeing factory it still is an interesting comparison to make. If we can see now how much better the Airbus A350 is compared to the Boeing 777-300ER it is possible to already draw some conclusions on the future battle between the A350 and Boeing 777X.

The counterpart of the Boeing 777-300ER is the Airbus A350-1000, so a comparison between these 2 aircraft will be made.

When the Boeing 777-300ER entered service it was one of the best, if not the best, aircraft on the market. It took Airbus a decade to come up with an airplane that will likely beat the Boeing 777-300ER in terms of efficiency.

Airbus A350: How its efficiency is built up

Airbus claims the A350 will burn 25% less fuel compared to its closest competitor, which would be the Boeing 777-300ER.

Aerodynamic efficiency

The aerodynamic efficiency of the Airbus A350 is approximately 7.5% better.

Propulsive efficiency

The propulsive efficiency of the Trent XWB engines that are exclusively used on the Airbus A350 are about 8% more efficient compared to the GE90-115B that are used on the Boeing 777-300ER.

Light weight

The Airbus A350-1000 is mainly made out of CFRP (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymers), while the Boeing 777-300ER is still made out of heavier aluminum. The operational empty weight for the Boeing 777-300ER is 168 (metric) tons and 155 (metric) tons for the Airbus A350-1000.

All these changes can be summarized as follows:

Figure 1: Effect on weight, aerodynamic and propulsive efficiency compared to the Boeing 777-300ER (Source: Dhierin-Perkash Bechai)

In this analysis I will make 2 comparisons:

  • Comparison between the maximum 3-class configurations for both aircraft
  • Comparison between typical 3-class configuration for both aircraft

Maximum configuration for both aircraft

For the maximum configuration I implemented the configuration from Table 1 along with the changes in aerodynamics, propulsive efficiency and weight into my model.

Table 1: Maximum 3-class configuration for the Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A350-1000

This gave the following results:

Figure 2: Effect on revenue, fuel costs, fuel costs per seat and profit compared to the Boeing 777-300ER (Source: Dhierin-Perkash Bechai)

Figure 2 shows that due to lower capacity the revenue is 9% lower, while profit is 8% lower. Fuel burn is 21% lower, while the fuel cost per (nautical) seat(mile) are 13% lower.

A better way to look at it is looking at the per seat numbers shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Effect on revenue per seat, fuel costs per seat and profit per seat compared to the Boeing 777-300ER (Source: Dhierin-Perkash Bechai)

This quite clearly shows that per seat the Airbus A350-1000 has a slightly higher revenue, while the reduction in fuel costs results in a profit that is 1% higher per seat.

Since not all airlines use the maximum configuration I will also consider a typical configuration.

Typical configuration for both aircraft

For the typical configuration I implemented the configuration from Table 2 along with the changes in aerodynamics, propulsive efficiency and weight into my model.

Table 2: Typical 3-class configuration for the Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A350-1000

This gave the following results:

Figure 4: Effect on revenue, fuel costs, fuel costs per seat and profit compared to the Boeing 777-300ER (Source: Dhierin-Perkash Bechai)

Figure 4 shows that due to lower capacity the revenue is 9% lower and profit is 8% lower. Fuel burn is 21% lower, while the fuel cost per (nautical) seat(mile) are 14% lower.

A better way to look at it is looking at the per seat numbers shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Effect on revenue per seat, fuel costs per seat and profit per seat compared to the Boeing 777-300ER (Source: Dhierin-Perkash Bechai)

This quite clearly shows that per seat the Airbus A350-1000 has about equal revenue, while the reduction in fuel costs results in a profit that is 1% higher per seat.

In maximum configuration the fuel costs per (nautical) seat-mile are $0.045 for the Boeing 777-300ER and $0.038 for the Airbus A350-1000.

In typical configuration these numbers are $0.046 and $0.040 respectively.

Airbus claimed that the Airbus A350 would have 25% lower fuel burn per seat compared to its Boeing counterpart. But with fuel per seat efficiencies being only 13%-14%, Airbus misses its estimate. It has to be noted though that Airbus seems to be estimating a 25% advantage in fuel burn as well as 25% advantage in operating costs. My analysis shows that fuel costs are only 21% lower, meaning that Airbus misses its estimate by 4%.

One point to take into account is that for the analysis I used a specific fuel consumption for the XWB that was quite low. Even with this assumption the result is that Airbus does not meet its estimate.

With the Boeing 777X coming up I think the Airbus A350-1000 is seriously being challenged.

Conclusion

  • The Airbus A350-1000 seems to be having 21% lower fuel costs, whereas 25% was estimated
  • The Airbus A350-1000 is a revolutionary aircraft, but the 20% improvement in fuel burn is something that can be expected with an all new aircraft
  • It can be questioned whether Airbus squeezed the maximum out of the A350
  • The Boeing 777X will put pressure on the brand new Airbus A350-1000

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The author wrote this article themselves, and it expresses their own opinions. The author is not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). The author has no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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