Airbus confirms delays to improve some A350s

PARIS, June 19, 2011 (AFP) - Airbus on Sunday confirmed two-year delays to two versions of its future long-haul A350 passenger jet as it implements clients' demands, including for one of the planes to be able to fly further.

The A350 XWB long-haul twin-jet is being designed with mostly lightweight composite materials and is aimed at competing with US rival Boeing's 777 and 787 Dreamliner.

Airbus' chief operating officer Fabrice Bregier told journalists that first deliveries of the shorter A350-800 would be pushed back from 2014 to mid-2016, while the longer A350-1000 would be delivered mid-2017 rather than 2015.

First deliveries of the medium-sized A350-900 are unchanged and set for late 2013.

Airbus is to equip the A350-1000 with more powerful Rolls Royce engines that will extend the plane's range.

The company said it wanted to respond to demands from clients that would allow the A350-1000 it to compete more directly with Boeing's 777-300ER.

Airbus' commercial director John Leahy, who is in contact with airlines, said: "If you ask for improvements, you should expect delays."

The delays will mainly affect Gulf customers who are the A350-1000's main clients. More than 570 A350s of all versions have already been ordered by 36 airlines.

The company said the delays to the 800 version were down to clients who had asked that the 900s be delivered first.

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