Caribbean operator Air Caraibes is calling for Airbus to offer a 10 abreast configuration on its A350 XWB, as it seeks to place a four-aircraft order by mid-2008.
Air Caraibes is seeking four aircraft to replace its A330 fleet around 2016-17, with candidates comprising the A350-1000 and the Boeing 777-300ER.
The Guadeloupe-based carrier operates its A330-300s in a nine-abreast, 372-seat configuration. Air Caraibes president Francois Hersen recently participated in an A350 XWB forum in Bordeaux and called on the manufacturer to offer the type with 10 abreast seating.
Speaking to ATI, flightglobal.com's sister publication, during the World Air Transport Forum in Cannes, Air Caraibes president Francois Hersen said: “If we want to increase capacity and cut costs, we want to have at least 450 passengers. The best solution is to increase the size.
“The target is for 2016-17 and we have to decide in the next few months which aircraft we will choose. The A350 XWB will be a good answer, but only if it is 10 abreast.”
Air Caraibes is also evaluating the Boeing 777-300ER, which Hersen believes is likely to be improved and possibly equipped with a new engine. But he adds that the A350 XWB has pilot training advantages due to fleet commonality.
He says: “We will have to decide before the middle of 2008 if we want to have an aircraft in 2016. It is difficult because I think Boeing could improve the 777. The 777 is too-big an aircraft for us today, but in the future it will be a good aircraft.”
Air Caraibes’ long-haul fleet comprises two A330-200s and a -300 on lease from International Lease Finance (ILFC). It is replacing the -200s and is due to take three more -300s in 2008, 2009 and 2011. Hersen says the type is a very good aircraft for Air Caraibe’s long-haul network.