Qatar Airways takes first delivery of Airbus' new A350 passenger jet. As Joel Flynn reports it's the planemaker's response to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the culmination of eight years of development.
A big moment for Airbus as it delivers its latest aircraft model to Qatar Airways. The A350-XWB - or extra wide body - is heralded by some as a technological leap forward. Airbus is also hoping it will be an industry gamechanger. Qatar Airways chief, Akbar Al Baker. SOUNDBITE: Qatar Airways Group CEO, Akbar Al Baker, saying (English): "From the inception of the A350 programme until now, we have watched this dynamic aircraft to be truly ahead of the curve and a global phenomenon." The technology in the A350 is one of the biggest attractions. It's made from lighter materials - which means fuel savings of 30 percent - and it offers airlines better and more comfortable cabin design, for economy and first class. As always it's designed to compete with Boeing. Fabrice Bregier is the CEO of Airbus. SOUNDBITE: Airbus CEO, Fabrice Bregier, saying (English): "In fact we have two big members of the family, one - the 900, behind me - and mid-2017 we will also deliver a stretched version, which is called -1000. We will have more passengers, we'll have exactly the size of a 777-ER, which was the reference in this business, and the beauty of the 350-1000 is we will have 25 percent less fuel consumption." This is a market valued at 1.9 trillion dollars over the next two decades. Sales of the A350 have already hit 778, compared to Boeing's 1,055 Dreamliner orders. Not bad for an aircraft that nearly didn't happen. Ten years ago Airbus came within a whisper of burying the model. IG's Chris Beauchamp. SOUNDBITE: IG Market Analyst, Chris Beauchamp, saying (English): "Airbus has really been on the backfoot over the last couple of years against its bigger American rival. It's a good sign I think, and the testing and use of it in Qatar will bear that one out and we'll see if we can boost some more orders and leverage further business off the back of the that." Airbus is now keen to scotch rumours about the future of its flagship A380 superjumbo. But Boeing has its own problems - the 787 Dreamliner brand still bearing reputational scars from a series of technical problems last year. Whether the A350 is the Airbus model to steal the initiative over Boeing will depend on whether other airlines order it next year.