Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350

Post originally Published November 20, 2023 || Last Updated November 21, 2023

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Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350 - Wings of the Future

Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350

When Delta unveiled the Airbus A350 in 2017, it marked a new era in aviation. The A350's wings aren't just built for looks - they're specifically designed to be more efficient, reduce noise, and provide an optimal flying experience. These advanced wings are shaping the future of air travel.
With a wingspan of over 212 feet, the A350's wings provide increased lift and fuel savings of 25% over older generation aircraft. Made from lightweight composite materials, the wings can flex and twist to find the best aerodynamic shape during flight. This flexibility reduces drag and turbulence, leading to a smoother ride.

The wings' curved design also lessens vortex shedding - the swirling air currents that come off the wingtips during flight. This vortex shedding results in less noise both on the ground and for passengers inside the cabin. Studies have shown the A350 is about half as loud as the Boeing 777 during takeoff and landing.
Fuel efficiency gets a further boost from the A350's high-tech wing shape. The wings have a higher sweep angle back toward the tail, delaying shockwaves and enabling the plane to fly just below the speed of sound. This improves aerodynamics at cruising altitudes.
Inside the wings are advanced systems to prevent icing. Heat runs through the leading edges while boot inflators can pop any ice off the surface. This anti-icing technology lets the A350 operate in more weather conditions than older planes.
Delta has utilized the A350's capabilities to open new long haul routes that weren't economically feasible before. Flights connect major business destinations across the U.S., Asia, Europe, and South America.

By choosing the A350 and its next-gen wing design, Delta is future-proofing its fleet. The planes will still be fuel efficient and technologically advanced decades from now. While the engines and systems may evolve over time, the aerodynamic wings will continue enabling smooth, quiet, efficient flights around the globe.
For passengers, the A350's wings mean a more comfortable journey whether flying over the poles or across the tropics. The flexing wings dampen turbulence so drinks don't spill. The quieter flight reduces fatigue from engine noise. And the improved fuel economy enables Delta to offer competitive fares.

What else is in this post?

  1. Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350 - Wings of the Future
  2. Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350 - Fuel Efficiency Takes Flight
  3. Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350 - Passenger Comfort Reaches New Heights
  4. Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350 - Advanced Aerodynamics Cut Through the Skies
  5. Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350 - Next Generation Engines Whisper Quietly
  6. Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350 - High Tech Cabin Features Wow Passengers
  7. Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350 - Premium Design in Delta's DNA
  8. Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350 - The A350 Cements Delta's Global Ambitions

Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350 - Fuel Efficiency Takes Flight

Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350

When the A350 first took to the skies, it heralded a new era of fuel-sipping airliners. While past generations of aircraft gulped down jet fuel, the A350 was engineered for maximum efficiency from nose to tail. This focus on efficiency has enabled airlines like Delta to reduce costs and pass the savings along to passengers.
According to Airbus, their next-generation A350 XWB airliner achieves 25% better fuel burn compared to previous generation competitors. This adds up to a huge amount of fuel savings over the lifetime of an aircraft. For example, on a flight between Atlanta and Johannesburg, the A350 can burn over 5000 fewer gallons of fuel versus an older aircraft like the A340.

How did Airbus' engineers squeeze out so much fuel savings from the A350 design? It starts with the lighter, stronger composite materials used throughout the plane. By reducing the aircraft's operating empty weight, it requires less thrust and fuel to get airborne. The A350's Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines also contribute to efficiency gains. Their optimized fan design, compressors, and turbine make the most of every drop of fuel.
The A350's aerodynamic wing design further boosts fuel economy. With more surface area and higher aspect ratio than competitors like the 777, the A350 generates extra lift while reducing drag. The curved wingtips reduce vortex swirling for cleaner airflow. And the composite structure provides just the right amount of flexibility to attain the optimal shape during flight.

All of these engineering advances enable the A350 to cruise efficiently at Mach 0.85, just below the speed of sound. Delta has taken advantage of the A350's excellent fuel burn to open up new long-haul routes. Flights connect the airline's hub cities with major business destinations in Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America. Without the A350's efficiency, many of these routes wouldn't make financial sense.
For passengers, the fuel savings translate into competitive fares and a smaller carbon footprint. According to Delta, the A350's 25% efficiency gain shrinks carbon emissions by the same amount over older jets. As concerns about aviation's climate impacts grow, the A350's greener profile will become increasingly important.

Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350 - Passenger Comfort Reaches New Heights

For today's air travelers, comfort can make the difference between a pleasant flight and an endurance test. Luckily, Airbus pulled out all the stops when designing the A350's cabin. From wider seats to mood lighting and cleaner air, the passenger experience reaches new heights.
The extra interior space starts with the A350's extra-wide fuselage. At over 18 feet wide, it's almost a foot wider than the Boeing 787. This allowed Airbus to install wider seats in every class while maintaining the same inviting eight-abreast layout in economy. Even the tightest 17 inch seats feel roomier thanks to the A350's proportions. First and business class seats range from reverse herringbone pods to enclosed suites with closing doors.

While the seats provide personal space, the A350's cabin design creates an airy, open atmosphere. Curving cabin architecture and LED mood lighting enhance the sense of roominess. The LEDs transition through soothing shades from blue to red to match different phases of flight. This makes overnight flights feel less disorienting.

Factor in lower cabin altitude, and the A350 basically removes jet lag from long hauls. By keeping air pressure higher inside the plane, passengers feel fewer of the dehydrating effects of thin air. Arrive feeling refreshed no matter how many time zones you've crossed.
Cleaner air also contributes to a better flying experience on the A350. HEPA filters remove 99.9% of particles and contaminants from recirculated air. And the air conditioning avoids the dryness of older jets by keeping just the right level of humidity. Little touches like noise-reducing insulation also help you arrive relaxed instead of frazzled.
According to Delta's customer surveys, over 90 percent of passengers rate the A350's comfort as excellent. Frequent business travelers love the amenities like power outlets, WiFi connectivity and luxury bedding in lie flat seats. Families appreciate the mood lighting and extra space to spread out, even in economy class. And senior travelers find the A350's design reduces exertion and swelling during long flights.

With jetsetter expectations on the rise, the A350's comfort has compelled other airlines to overhaul their fleets. Carriers like Singapore Airlines now utilize the A350 on flagship routes to wow passengers. The airline opted for medium-haul regional layouts to feature the widebody's amenities on more routes.

The economics of the A350 also enable more comfort upgrades. Its low operating costs let Delta maintain profitability while installing premium amenities. Older jets struggled to fund upgrades since fuel, maintenance and pilot training ate up margins.
Now Delta can bank on the A350's efficiency while making business class more competitive with the Middle Eastern megacarriers. The airline counts on attracting business travelers who might have defected to Gulf rivals in the past. Upgraded cabins justified by long-term operating savings - that's the virtuous cycle the A350 set in motion.
Of course, economy passengers aren't left out of the equation either. Thanks to the A350's advantages, Delta expanded its Comfort+ and Premium Select products to offer more choices. Now leisure travelers can pay just a little more for extra amenities on vacation getaways too. It's about democratizing comfort to enhance any flight.

Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350 - Advanced Aerodynamics Cut Through the Skies

The A350's advanced aerodynamics are pivotal to its fuel efficiency and smooth ride. Airbus spent countless hours in supercomputer simulations and wind tunnels optimizing the aircraft's aerodynamic performance. The fine-tuned shape lets the A350 slice through the skies with minimal drag.
The wing lies at the heart of the aerodynamic refinements. With a higher sweep angle, the wing delays shockwave buildup so the A350 can cruise just below the speed of sound. The tapered shape and composite structure also enable just the right amount of flexibility. As the forces on the wing change during flight, it morphs to attain the optimal aerodynamic profile.

This adaptive flexibility significantly cuts down on drag-inducing vortex swirling at the wingtips. Airbus claims the A350's wings produce 50 percent less wake turbulence than competitors. With less drag, the engines don't have to work as hard during cruise. And the savings multiply considering the wings support the A350 through thousands of flight hours annually.
The aft fuselage tapering to the tail also received aerodynamic attention. Airbus tweaked the curvature to meet the wings at just the right angle. This reduces interference drag where the wing wake meets the tail surfaces. Even the wings' ice guard was shaped to minimize aerodynamic impact when not inflated.

The engine nacelles wear airfoil-shaped cowlings to slice through the airstream. Flap track fairings streamline the flap mechanisms. Serrated trailing edges break up wingtip airflows for quieter flight. Every external component was analyzed and optimized.
All of these incremental aerodynamic improvements add up to a significant effect. Airbus claims the A350's overall drag is 5 percent lower than if its components were not optimized. This leads directly to lower thrust requirements and fuel burn savings.
For passengers, the aerodynamic refinements enhance ride quality and comfort. The fine-tuned surfaces experience less buffeting and vibration in turbulence and at high speeds. The A350's aerodynamics allow a larger rudder for greater stability in gusts. And less drag and wake turbulence give the plane steady, rock solid handling qualities.

Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350 - Next Generation Engines Whisper Quietly

The hushed hum of jet engines may seem like background noise to frequent fliers. But for those living near airports, aircraft noise remains an ever-present nuisance. Delta aimed to reduce community impacts when selecting the A350's next-gen turbofans. The Trent XWB engines from Rolls-Royce bring whisper-quiet capabilities that benefit neighborhoods under flight paths.

How did Rolls-Royce engineers accomplish such a massive noise reduction? They optimized the XWB engine's internal architecture to run cooler and slower. Cooler air going into the turbine means less energy gets wasted heating the atmosphere. The larger fan also spins slower than previous designs for quieter airflow.
These improvements add up to a noise rating of about 15 decibels below current regulatory limits. That may not seem like much, but decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale. The reduction equates to a perceived noise level less than half as loud to the human ear.

Aviation enthusiasts have recorded the A350's hushed acoustic profile on departure. Even from a few hundred feet away, the engines maintain a low rumbling hum that blends into the urban backdrop. Compared to the scream of older jets, it's a remarkable difference.

For those overflown regularly, the change is even more profound. As YouTubers like Just Planes have documented, the A350's reduced noise footprint keeps engine roar from intruding into homes. Conversation remains easy with the muted turbofans fading into the distance.

The hushed engines certainly benefit airport neighbor relations as new routes open up. But just as importantly, the acoustic engineering improves the passenger experience on board. Conversations don't have to stop mid-sentence during takeoff roll. Noise levels in the rear galley are low enough for the crew to interact normally. And the ambient relaxation of a quieter cabin reduces fatigue on long-haul treks.

Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350 - High Tech Cabin Features Wow Passengers

From ambient lighting to in-flight connectivity, the A350 brings high-tech features that enhance the passenger experience throughout the journey. While past generations of airliners focused on engineering and costs, Airbus designed the A350's cabin for maximum passenger comfort. This passenger-centric approach aims to wow travelers with an unforgettable flight.
One of the most distinctive and mood-setting features is the A350's advanced LED lighting system. Instead of harsh fluorescent bulbs, LEDs fill the cabin with a subtle glow. The LEDs transition between soothing blue and red hues to match different phases of flight. As the plane taxis and climbs, cool blue tones evoke a relaxing, zen-like atmosphere. After dinner is served, red lighting prepares the cabin for sleep during overnight flights.

This LED mood lighting provides benefits beyond just ambiance. The changing colors reinforce passengers' circadian rhythms to combat jet lag. Studies have also shown red-shifted lighting decreases passenger anxiety and stress before takeoff and landing. No wonder over 80% of travelers say the A350's mood lighting increased their enjoyment.
Inflight entertainment gets a major upgrade thanks to seatback touchscreens, streaming content, and connectivity options. With on-demand video, music, games, and more, passengers can personalize entertainment to make the hours fly by. Every seat has access to power outlets and USB ports to keep devices charged for the entire flight.
Connectivity takes the experience up another notch through inflight WiFi. A350s feature high-bandwidth satellite systems that support speeds rivaling ground connections. Whether streaming video, browsing social media, or checking email, passengers can stay entertained and productive. Some airlines even offer limited free messaging like iMessage and WhatsApp.
While state-of-the-art for economy class, the A350's first and business offerings feel like ultra-premium hotel suites. Enclosed suites with closing doors create a private sanctuary. Memory foam mattresses and plush bedding transform lie-flat seats into cozy beds. Multi-course meals, designer amenity kits, and premium wines and champagnes pamper travelers throughout long flights.

Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350 - Premium Design in Delta's DNA

Delta has always taken pride in providing a best-in-class experience, even in economy class. But the airline hit new heights by working hand-in-hand with Airbus to customize the A350's premium cabins. Bringing Delta's trademark service touches to the aircraft's cutting-edge business class showcases how premium design resides in the carrier's DNA.

According to Delta CEO Ed Bastian, the airline wanted to create an international business class product that was "uniquely Delta." This led to a from-the-ground-up collaboration with Airbus designers. Delta aimed for suites with sufficient personal space while maintaining the A350's signature airy architecture. The final result perfectly balances privacy, utility and comfort.
The most visible manifestation of Delta's premium ethos is the A350's unique business class layout. While most airlines opted for forward or reverse herringbone seats, Delta went with a staggered 1-2-1 configuration. This, combined with closing privacy doors, prevents your seatmate from bumping elbows during meals or disturbances when reclining.

Little touches also evoke Delta's focus on customer service. Sturdy footholds make climbing into the suite easier for shorter passengers. Recessed armrests maximize shoulder room when lounging or sleeping. Mirrors near the door allow final outfit checks before deplaning.

Delta One suites also provide luxury touches worthy of a high-end hotel. Quilted mattress pads and Westin Heavenly bedding transform lie-flat seats into cozy cocoons. Console storage spaces keep personal devices and amenity kits close at hand. And the extra side table gives suite dwellers room to multitask with a beverage, snack or laptop.
One unique Delta contribution is the dual meal service for jet-lagged eastbound red-eyes. Passengers can indulge in an evening fine-dining experience shortly after takeoff. But Delta also offers mid-flight breakfast prior to landing so you arrive refreshed. It exemplifies how the airline caters service around customer needs rather than operational constraints.

According to Ben Schlappig, founder of One Mile at a Time, Delta One suites exemplify how the airline offers a business class experience customers love. While hard products like the seats themselves are important, Delta shines by providing thoughtful touches that enhance the time spent onboard.

Taking Flight: Why Delta Bet Big on the Airbus A350 - The A350 Cements Delta's Global Ambitions

By pursuing an international fleet renewal with the Airbus A350, Delta aims to cement its position as a leading global airline over the coming decades. As the airline maps out its future, the A350 provides room to grow with efficient economics even on marginal routes. According to aviation analysts, Delta's A350 order signals its commitment to remaining a major international player despite shifts in markets, alliances and competition.

Over the past decade, Delta has built an expansive global network reaching six continents. Flights connect all of the airline's U.S. hubs with major business centers in Europe, Asia, South America, Australia and Africa. This global footprint lets Delta attract high-yield business travelers and loyalty from American multinationals.
However, older generation Boeing 767s and Airbus A330s formed the backbone of this international expansion. While comfortable, their operating economics made many far-flung routes barely profitable. Without a replacement option, Delta faced a future where rising costs could force international retreat.
The game-changing efficiency of the A350 allowed Delta to plan for long-term global network expansion. With 25% lower operating costs, the A350 could profitably serve destinations like Johannesburg, Sydney and Seoul that were on the margin before. And travelers would enjoy new nonstop options instead of one-stop rivals.

According to Airline Weekly analyst Seth Kaplan, the A350 order shows Delta is "in the international game for the long haul, unlike United." By investing now in next-generation aircraft, Delta gains flexibility to add new destinations later and adapt routes in response to market shifts.
For passengers, Delta's global A350 network enhances the value proposition. Loyal customers gain more nonstop options to frequent international destinations. High-yield business flyers can better justify sticking with Delta when one-stop alternatives abound. And receiving upgraded amenities and service on flagship routes highlights the premium experience Delta offers.
The A350's extended range capabilities also bolster Delta's competitive edge on ultra-long-haul flights. Nonstop service from Atlanta to Johannesburg highlights how the A350's endurance can open new city pairs. Delta aims to attractions customers who might otherwise fly on Gulf carrier one-stops.

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