• Airbus recently delivered to 350th Airbus A350 aircraft to one of its top customers, Air France.
  • The Airbus A350 program was first approved by Airbus in 2006 in response to the Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner programs that were becoming popular with airlines and highlighted Airbus’ inadequacies in the twin-engine market.
  • Fourteen years later, the Airbus A350 is a symbol of efficiency in aviation and reshaping long-haul air travel.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Airbus delivered its 350th A350 aircraft to Air France earlier in February, marking a milestone for one of the manufacturer’s newest twin-engine wide-body offerings. The delivery came six years after the first Airbus A350 was delivered to a customer in 2014, and seven years after its first flight in 2013.

Since its arrival in the skies, the A350’s reach has spread far and wide, with no shortage of orders for the next-generation aircraft. The A350 has renewed fleets, been the platform for new products, and opened routes previously thought to be unviable, all in its short time in the sky.

Much like Boeing with the 777 and 787 Dreamliner, the A350 marked a turning point for Airbus that saw it shift to producing next-generation twin-engines instead of going big with aircraft like the A380, a commercial flop for Airbus which will end the program after less than 300 deliveries.

With the A350 quickly surpassing the A380 in terms of orders, it’s been a successful aircraft for Airbus and is ushering in the future for the manufacturer and air travel.

Take a look back at the history of the Airbus A350.

In 2005, Airbus' landmark achievement of engineering and design, the Airbus A380, took its first flight.

Foto: An Airbus A380 aircraft.sourceAP

Source: Airbus

Airbus' quad engine double-decker had finally bested Boeing and its 1.5 deck 747 aircraft that had dominated the skies since the 1960s. It was called the 21st-century flagship by Airbus and sought to change aviation the same way the 747 did.

Foto: An Airbus A380 aircraft.sourceAssociated Press

Source: Airbus

Airbus, however, was looking in the wrong direction as rival Boeing was focused on the next generation of air travel that didn't involve four-engine aircraft.

Foto: An Airbus A380 aircraft.sourceGetty Images

Two years prior to the A380s first flight, Boeing had announced it was developing a new plane with only two engines, piggybacking off the success of the 777 that had entered service with United Airlines in 1995 and was revolutionizing twin-engine travel.

Foto: A Boeing 787 aircraft in production.sourceTed S. Warren/AP Images

Source: Boeing

That aircraft was the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, a commercial success for Boeing that would later be found in the fleets of airlines the world over by the mid-2010s.

Foto: A Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.sourceRandall Hill/Reuters

With airlines warning Airbus that its current plans for a next-generation aircraft, which was basically a carbon fiber A330 with new engines, wouldn't be enough to convert 787 customers to A350 customers, Airbus went back to the drawing board.

Foto: A Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-300.sourceNicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Source: Reuters

The Airbus board was largely divided on the aircraft and the decision to produce the aircraft wasn't even settled when the aircraft was first announced in 2006 at the Farnborough Airshow.

Foto: A model of the Airbus A350 XWB.sourceLEON NEAL/AFP/Getty

Source: Reuters

Later that year, however, Airbus decided on a design for a new, clean slate carbon aircraft with two engines and the A350 in its final form was born, a $13 billion endeavor.

Foto: An initial Airbus A350 model.sourceThomas SAMSON/Gamma-Rapho/Getty

Source: New York Times and Reuters

So while the Airbus A380 was making history with its first flight, it was nearly obsolete before its wheels ever left the ground as Airbus was already shifting towards twin-engine aircraft.

Foto: An Emirates Airbus A380 takes off from Dubai International Airport.sourceChristopher Pike/Reuters

The new aircraft would a direct competitor to the 787 Dreamliner and 777, with three variants planned to include the smaller -800, midsize -900, and larger -1000, and seat capacity ranging from 250 to 375

Foto: Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer.sourceReuters

Source: New York Times and CNN

The decision to start fresh instead of giving the A330 a makeover was influenced primarily by airlines and other customers, including Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker and aircraft leasing magnate Steven F. Udvar-Hazy.

Foto: Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker.sourceReuters

Source: Reuters

A key feature of the aircraft would also be included in its full name, A350 Extra Wide Body or XWB, with the cabin width being slightly larger than the 787's at 5.61 meters.

Foto: A French bee Airbus A350.sourceFrench bee

Source: Airbus

The extra meters allow for as many as 10 seats per row to be installed on the aircraft, though many airlines opt for nine.

Foto: The economy cabin of a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350-1000 XWB.sourceDavid Slotnick/Business Insider

Development of the aircraft began the next year in 2007 with an estimated first flight in 2013. In the meantime, orders were piling up from major airlines including Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines.

Foto: Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker ordering Airbus A350 aircraft.sourceERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty

Source: Singapore Airlines

Though General Electric was initially sought after to provide engines to power the aircraft, Rolls Royce eventually became the top A350 engine supplier with its more efficient Trent XWB exclusively found on the aircraft.

Foto: A Rolls Royce Trent XWB aircraft.sourceDavid Slotnick/Business Insider

Source: Seattle Times and FlightGlobal

The new Rolls Royce engines helped Airbus achieve a greater level of efficiency with the A350. According to the manufacturer, the aircraft is 25% more efficient than its current generation wide-body aircraft and its largest variant can fly up to 8,700 nautical miles.

Foto: A Rolls Royce Trent XWB aircraft.sourceDavid Slotnick/Business Insider

Source: Airbus

Production for the aircraft took place across Europe with production sites in France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom, among others.

Foto: An Airbus A350 forward fuselage being produced in France.sourceAlain DENANTES/Gamma-Rapho/Getty

Source: Airbus

Ultimately, the smallest -800 variant would be dropped and the sub-250-seat market would be given to the upcoming Airbus A330neo project.

Foto: An Airbus A330-900neo aircraft.sourceREGIS DUVIGNAU/Reuters

The cockpit of the aircraft would be one of the most technologically advanced to be featured on an Airbus jet with pilots being fed information from high-definition screens and having access to multiple exterior cameras.

Foto: The cockpit of an Airbus A350 XWB.sourceThomas Pallini/Business Insider

Following a six-year production, the A350 was transferred from the final assembly line in Toulouse to the flight test department in May 2013 to perform 2,500 hours of testing before it could be certified.

Foto: An Airbus A350 XWB test aircraft.sourceAKSARAN/Gamma-Rapho/Getty

Source: Bloomberg

The final design of the A350 would look nothing like the A330 and boast a carbon fiber fuselage with blended winglets called sharklets giving it a more sporty look.

Foto: An Airbus A350 XWB test aircraft.sourceAKSARAN/Gamma-Rapho/Getty

Then in June, the first Airbus A350 took to the skies for the first time with scores of computers and engineers onboard to test its capabilities.

Foto: An Airbus A350 XWB test aircraft.sourceAKSARAN/Gamma-Rapho/Getty

Source: Airbus

Following successful test flights and certifications from EASA and the FAA, Qatar Airways took the first delivery of an Airbus A350-900 XWB in December 2014, marking a new era for Airbus that would see it double down on next-generation aircraft.

Foto: A Qatar Airways Airbus A350 XWB.sourceMustafa Ciftci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Source: CNN

Following Qatar Airways taking the first four A350s to be delivered by Airbus, other carriers started to receive their orders including Vietnam Airlines,…

Foto: A Vietnam Airlines Airbus A350-900 XWB.sourceTHOMAS WHITE/Reuters


Foto: A Finnair Airbus A350-900 XWB.sourceDaniel Bockwoldt/picture alliance/Getty

Singapore Airlines…

Foto: Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900.sourceNicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

LATAM Airlines Brasil...

Foto: A LATAM Airlines Airbus A350-900 XWB.sourceREGIS DUVIGNAU/Reuters

Ethiopian Airlines…

Foto: An Ethiopian Airlines Airbus A350-900 XWB.sourceYu Chun Christopher Wong/S3studio/Getty

Cathay Pacific…

Foto: A Cathay Pacific Airways Airbus A350 airplane approaches to land at Changi International Airport in Singapore.sourceReuters

Thai Airways International…

Foto: A Thai International Airways Airbus A350-900 XWB.sourceNicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty

China Airlines…

Foto: A China Airlines aircraft at Ontario International Airport.sourceWill Lester/MediaNews Group/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/Getty


Foto: sourceSaumya Khandelwal/Hindustan Times/Getty

Air Caraibes...

Foto: An Air Caraibes Airbus A350.sourceFabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty

and Asiana Airlines.

Foto: An Asiana Airlines Airbus A350 XWB.sourceReuters

The aircraft was growing in popularity in most continents, though with one notable standout: North America. That was until Delta Air Lines received its first A350 in 2017, the first US-based A350 operator.

Foto: A Delta Air Lines Airbus A350sourceGREG BAKER/AFP/Getty

Source: Delta Air Lines

While the -900 was becoming more pervasive, some airlines decided to hold out for the larger A350 variant that was to make its commercial debut in 2018, the Airbus A350-1000 XWB.

Foto: An Airbus A350-1000 performs at the 53rd International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France June 19, 2019.sourcePascal Rossignol/REUTERS

The A350-1000 XWB is an extended version of the -900, offering a longer fuselage by over 20 feet and capable of holding over 400 passengers in a high-density configuration.

Foto: An Airbus A350-1000 performs during the 53rd International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris.sourceReuters

Source: Airbus

The latest A350 would come soon after the -900 debuted, performing its first flight in November 2016.

Foto: An Airbus A350-1000 taxies during the 53rd International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris.sourceReuters

Source: Airbus

Qatar Airways, again, became the first operator of the aircraft type when it took delivery in February 2018.

Foto: Qatar Airways' first Airbus A350-1000 XWB.sourceREGIS DUVIGNAU/Reuters

Once the -1000 debuted, more airlines started adopting the A350, most notably the two largest UK carriers British Airways…

Foto: A British Airways Airbus A350-1000 XWB.sourceGeorge Pimentel/Getty

And Virgin Atlantic Airways.

Foto: A Virgin Atlantic Airways Airbus A350-1000 XWB.sourceNicolas Economou/Getty Images

Both carriers were already operators of the Boeing 787 with the A350 complementing their next-generation fleets, as was the case with many A350 customers.

Foto: A Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.sourceThomas Pallini/Business Insider

The A350 also managed to penetrate Boeing strongholds including Japan where American aircraft reign supreme over European types.

Foto: Japan Airlines aircraft parked on the tarmac at Haneda Airport in Tokyo.sourceREUTERS/ Toru Hanai

Japan Airlines, which had long favored Boeing products alongside rival All Nippon Airways, became the first Japanese operator of a next-generation Airbus twin-engine wide-body when it received its first A350-900 XWB in 2019.

Foto: Japan Airlines Co. officials pose for a photo in front of an Airbus A350 plane at a hangar at Tokyo's Haneda airport on June 14, 2019.sourceKyodo News via Getty Images

The aircraft soon started to displace the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the list of longest flights in the world, with the longest routes for the A350 including Singapore and San Francisco operated by Singapore Airlines, an approximately 7,350-nautical mile route...

Foto: A Singapore Airlines Airbus A350 XWB.sourceNicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty

Source: Forbes

Manila and New York operated by Philippine Airlines, around 7,400 nautical miles…

Foto: Philippine Airlines aircraft in Manila.sourceTED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty

Source: Forbes

Singapore and Los Angeles operated by Singapore Airlines, a near-7,650-nautical mile route…

Foto: A Singapore Airlines Airbus A350 XWB.sourceEdgar Su/Reuters

Source: Forbes

And Singapore and Newark, again operated by Singapore Airlines, currently the longest nonstop route in the world with an approximate length of 8,300 nautical miles. For this route, the airline uses a specially configured Airbus A350, the A350-900 Ultra Long Range or ULR.

Foto: A Singapore Airlines Airbus A350 XWB.sourceC. v. Grinsven/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty

Source: Forbes

The A350 is shaping to be the new face of ultra-long-haul travel, as Qantas recently selected the aircraft to operate its planned nonstop flights from Sydney to London and New York over Boeing's offering. The flights, currently in testing under the name Project Sunrise, would be the longest in the world with nearly an entire day in the air.

Foto: Qantas' first Project Sunrise test flight.sourceDavid Slotnick/Business Insider

The aircraft continues to dominate in Europe and Asia but has not been as well received in the Western Hemisphere or south of the Equator, with only a handful of carriers in North America, South America, and Africa purchasing the aircraft.

Foto: An Airbus A350-1000 XWB.sourceBenjamin Zhang/Business Insider

South African Airways became the first sub-equatorial airline in continental Africa to operate the aircraft, though it's unclear whether or not the airline will be around to continue operating them as it continues to face financial issues.

Foto: A South African Airways Airbus A350.sourceSouth African Airways

Source: Business Insider

United Airlines will become the second US operator of the A350 when it begins taking delivery of its order for 45 of the type in 2027. The airline already flies all three variants of the 787 Dreamliner.

Foto: A United Boeing 787 Dreamliner.sourceJustin Sullivan / Getty Images

Source: The Points Guy

Airbus just delivered its 350th Airbus A350 to Air France last week, with deliveries and orders continuing to rise.

Foto: An Air France Airbus A350 XWB.sourcePASCAL PAVANI/AFP/Getty

Source: Air France

The aircraft is also being used by Airbus to help usher in the future of air travel, with an A350-1000 XWB performing an autonomous takeoff with no pilot input in December.

Foto: An Airbus A350-100 XWB test aircraft takes off from Toulouse-Blagnac Airport on its own.sourceAirbus

Source: Business Insider

What began as a hasty effort to compete with Boeing ended up giving Airbus the aircraft to lead it and the aviation industry into the future.

Foto: An Airbus A350 takes off at the aircraft builder's headquarters in Toulouse.sourceReuters