Taiwanese national carrier, China Airlines plans to launch scheduled operations with the Airbus A350-900XWB from the third quarter of this year, according to a latest update of its flight schedule inventory. The SkyTeam alliance member will initially debut the modern generation airliner in the Taipei Taoyuan – Hong Kong market, although it officially remains tight-lipped on its entry to service schedule.
China Airlines placed a commitment with Airbus in January 2008 to acquire up to 20 A350s powered by Rolls Royce Trent XWB engines as part of their future fleet modernisation programme. The aircraft will be configured in a 327-seat arrangement, according to Airbus literature from the time of the initial order, although it appears that a less-dense 306-seat arrangement will actually be adopted by the carrier with 32 Business Class, 31 Premium Economy and 243 Economy Class seats.
The A350 will primarily be deployed on the airline's long-haul routes to Europe, Australia and the United States, enabling China Airlines to offer its passengers non-stop service on ultra-long routes. However, it will initially operate in local markets for crew familiarisation.
The first of the 14 firm orders will arrive in Taiwan early in the second half of this year and the airline’s revised GDS schedule listing shows it will debut between Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport and Hong Kong International Airport from August 1, 2016, initially on a twice daily basis but growing to four times daily from October 1, 2016.
The airline’s precise entry into service plans for the airliner remain unclear and additional schedules could be added in the coming months as the operator formalises its network plans. The airline says the selection of the A350 is part of a strategy to “operate the aircraft with the most modern technology and offering the highest cost efficiency for our future fleet requirements”.
The A350 is likely to be used to replace older A340-300 and then A330-300 equipment on existing routes as well as to establish new long-haul routes to Europe and North America with destinations such as Houston and Seattle understood to be under consideration, the latter a market it served up until 2008.
The resumption of London flights, which were operated between March 2010 and March 2012, is also likely. The airline is thought to have four aircraft arriving this year with six more due in 2017 and four further aircraft in 2018.
In Europe, China Airlines currently offers flights between Taipei and Amsterdam (via Bangkok), Frankfurt, Rome (via Delhi) and Vienna and these are likely to be among the initial long-haul routes to see the aircraft, while Vancouver, Canada, is also a contender for early A350 deployment. The longer-range of the A350XWB will enable the current stops in India and Thailand for these European flights to be terminated.
As more aircraft arrive, markets such as Auckland (served via Brisbane and Melbourne) and Honolulu (served non-stop and via Tokyo Narita) could also welcome the type.