Etihad Airways is introducing its first Airbus A350-1000 passenger jet into service in the second quarter of this year, marking the first time the UAE deploys the long-haul aircraft.
"It is a world-beating proposition, this product," Tony Douglas, chief executive of Etihad Aviation Group, told The National. "We're going to phase them progressively into service this year, up to the first five of them."
The pace of introducing the first five of Etihad's 12 A350s will depend on the market recovery and the airline will be "agile" in adapting to these market conditions, he said.
Etihad has yet to reveal the new cabin interiors, routes and configuration.
Here's a rundown on the new aircraft and its significance.
What is the Airbus A350?
The A350-1000 is Europe's twin-engine passenger jet that was designed to compete with Boeing's popular 777-300 and 777-300ER versions that go up to a 400-seat capacity. The lightweight carbon-fibre Airbus jet is an all-new design aircraft and was intended to break US rival Boeing's dominance in the “mini-jumbo” segment.
The A350-1000 took to the skies for the first time in November 2016 for its maiden flight, followed by the first aircraft delivery in 2018 to debut customer Qatar Airways.
It is a larger variant to the new-generation A350-900, which entered service in 2015 also with Qatar Airways. That aircraft competes with Boeing's 777-200ER/LR jets and the 787-10 Dreamliner.
What are the aircraft's features?
The A350-1000 boasts 25 per cent less fuel burn than its nearest competitor, saving money and reducing harmful effects to the environment, according to Airbus. Powered by the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 turbofans, the jet is capable of ultra-long-haul travel. It accommodates from 350 to 410 passengers in a standard three-class configuration and features a 221 inch-wide cabin.
The A350-1000 boasts the quietest twin-aisle cabin in the skies, wider seats and LED ambient lighting that mimics sunrise and sunset while minimising the effects of jet lag, according to Airbus.
On which routes can the aircraft be used?
With a range of 8,700 nautical miles(16,100km), the jet is able to service longer-range routes connecting emerging markets, such as Shanghai-Boston or Paris-Santiago, as well as more traditional flight segments as Manchester-Los Angeles or Dubai-Melbourne, according to Airbus.
Who are the main customers?
The A350 family has 915 orders from 50 customers (including the first 11 A350 freighter orders), according to the latest figures as of the end of January. Customers of the A350-1000 include British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic. Qatar Airways is the biggest customer.
What is Etihad's 'Sustainable 50'?
Last year, Etihad Airways united key industry manufacturers to form the most comprehensive, cross-organisational initiative to reduce CO2 emissions in aviation.
The airline's sustainability programme previously focused on its fleet of GEnX-powered Boeing aircraft under the "Greenliner Programme". It was expanded by a similar initiative focused on Rolls Royce XWB-powered A350s under a programme called "Sustainability 50".
Both programmes are aimed at researching and developing new technologies and methods of flying to help decarbonisation efforts and boost operational efficiencies.