The newest member of Airbus’ leading widebody family, the A350 XWB (Extra Wide Body) is a mid-size long-range aircraft featuring the very latest in aerodynamic design, carbon fibre fuselage and wings, and the new, very efficient Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. With these technologies improving performance in all aspects of operation, the A350 XWB is a serious competitor to Boeing’s B787 and B777. It also offers a 25-per-cent reduction in fuel burn and emissions and lower maintenance costs.
The A350 XWB also claims to be the quietest passenger aircraft, next to the giant A380 superjumbo. It is six decibels quieter than the Boeing 787.
Thais boarding the newly christened Wichian Buri, as Thai International Airways’ first A350 XWB is known, can be forgiven for immediately associating the aircraft with the grilled chicken for which its namesake district in Phetchabun province is known. While that probably isn’t on the menu, the plane does seem to have been created especially for Thais with the winglets on the newly designed wings bringing to mind the delicate hands of a Thai classical dancer – sweet but strong.
Marginally wider that the Boeing 787, the cabin is done out in THAI’s signature violet and boasts both a contemporary design and mood lighting. It is configured in a premium two-class layout with a total of 321 seats: 32 seats in the Royal Silk business class and 289 seats in the main cabin economy class.
Highlights in Royal Silk class include the 1-2-1 staggered seating with direct aisle access for each passenger, a fully lie-flat design seat that allows a six-foot-tall passenger to sleep stretched out and a 16-inch video screen.
Economy class meanwhile has 3-3-3 seating with the “hot seats” numbered 50A and 50K. These special seats give passengers extra space to stretch their legs since the seats in row 49 are laid out in 2-3-2 leaving gaps at the left and right. To make the A350 economy class different from others, the most comfortable seat – the B/E aerospace pinnacle seat – is used throughout. It’s 18-inches wide, an inch wider than most economy class seats and equipped with a 11-inch video screen.
The plane is equipped with the latest Panasonic eX3, in-flight entertainment system boasting about 100 movies, TV programmes, radio channels, music albums, and games. The flight also provides THAI’s Sky Connect Wi-Fi service.
Another plus is the extra-size overhead bins, with each stowing five standard cabin-compliant cases of maximum dimensions with up to 45 kilogramme weight.
Airbus says it has 810 orders of the A350 XWB from 43 customers worldwide, making it one of the most successful widebody aircraft ever.
The Wichian Buri is the first of a dozen aircraft set to join the THAI fleet. Four are purchased directly from Airbus while the other eight are acquired under lease agreements. They will all be in service by 2018.
After a short period of regional flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Wichian Buri starts its regular Bangkok-Melbourne route next month.