It’s a holiday, so I normally wouldn’t post today. But I have a backup of things I want to write about, so you get a quicky today on the worst-kept secret in ages… Delta’s decision to order the A350-1000.
This order has been in the works forever, and there have been leaks for over a year. Now, it’s finally official. Delta will order 20 Airbus A350-1000s with an option for 20 more. Deliveries start in 2026. This complements Delta’s 28 A350-900s (plus 16 on order).
The A350-1000 is a big airplane. In fact, it’s probably the only reason that Boeing continues to pour effort into the 777X program. It doesn’t have anything to match now. Because it’s so big, the A350-1000 has not been nearly as popular as the A350-900 model. Here’s a look at the customer list.
Airbus A350-1000 Operator Fleets and Orders
Qatar is the largest operator to date, and it would probably be larger if it hadn’t gotten into that fight with Airbus over paint jobs. But it has the most orders by far, and that stands to reason. This is the Emirates playbook with the A380, just using fewer examples of a smaller airplane to achieve the same goal of pumping passengers through a mega-hub.
Qantas chose the A350-1000 for Project Sunrise which will be lightly loaded and have the range to go nonstop to New York and London. That makes up half the order with the rest being standard A350-1000s. Then there’s Air India which has designs on world domination and greatness. The jury is out on that one.
Notice that both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are operators today. At heavily slot-restricted Heathrow, this is a good airplane for the biggest routes where unit costs can drop down to help support lower fares. You see it flying to a lot to India, the US, and some African destinations.
For Delta, this airplane could be the one that makes India actually work. There’s no shortage of passengers in that market, just a shortage of high fares. I would imagine we might see it deployed on hub-to-hub routes like Atlanta – Paris as well. But, Delta says this airplane has up to a 9,700nm range which doesn’t seem right. It should be 8,700nm, I believe, which is still long enough to get pretty much anywhere on earth that Delta cares about from Atlanta (sorry, Perth).
We don’t know how many seats will be onboard just yet, but Delta has A350-900s with 306 seats. The -1000 is probably going to add about 30 more, I’d guess.
It seems strange, but this will replace the 767-300ER in Delta’s long-haul fleet. That airplane is tiny and the A350-1000 is huge, but this is all about cascading upgauging. Flights on the 767-300ER will move up to the 767-400/A330-200 while those flights can move up to the A330-300/900neo. Then it’s up to the A350-900, and those with the highest demand can move to the A350-1000.
This is the same kind of upgauging strategy we’ve seen at other carriers, and especially on the short-haul fleet. Delta will now try to do the same thing on the long-haul fleet. It’s a smart move. Delta already operated the A350-900, so there’s no reason it should stray to a Boeing product that isn’t even certified yet.