Airbus to Discuss A350 Improvements

Plane maker Airbus said on Monday it was ready to discuss possible improvements to its future A350 plane after receiving several complaints about the mid-sized wide-body aircraft.

"I want to note that Airbus listens to its customers ... We are ready to make extra efforts to respond to their expectations," Chief Executive Gustav Humbert said at the inauguration on Monday of a new site in Toulouse.

Some key Airbus customers, including Singapore Airlines, have criticized Airbus for not doing enough to make the A350 competitive with rival Boeing's (BA) 787 Dreamliner.

Influential aircraft leasing executive Steven Udvar-Hazy, chief executive of International Lease Finance Corp., recently said Airbus ought to widen the fuselage and redesign the wing on the A350, encouraging the planemaker to offer a truly new plane to take on the all-new Boeing 787, and not to rely on design elements of the 20-year old A330 model.

The criticism is adding to increasing pressure on Airbus to return to the drawing board at a time when the manufacturer is already facing delays on its double-decker A380 airplane program and slumping sales of its four-engine A340.

Airbus introduced the A350 in 2004 as its answer to Boeing's twin-aisle 787 Dreamliner, which has sold out the first three years of production.

"Sales figures from our competitor of long-haul planes are starting to be better than ours, but this is a very recent development. All the same, we have 182 commitments for the A350, and Boeing sales benefit from the fact that they launched the 787 earlier," Humbert said.

On BAE Systems' plan to sell its 20 percent stake in Airbus to parent company EADS, Humbert said that while the transaction was expected the timetable was a "real surprise."

Europe's largest defense company BAE announced plans on Friday to sell the stake, valued at 3.5 billion euros in EADS's books, to make acquisitions in the United States.

Humbert said the stake sale would not result in job losses in Britain.