Airbus Chief Operating Officer Customers John Leahy has indicated for the first time that Airbus might stretch the A350 further. “We might stretch it, we are not sure how big the market is,” he told delegates at the ISTAT Europe conference in Barcelona/Spain. “We are studying it.”

Leahy made the argument that “what the market needs is simplicity” and that the three current versions of the A350 compete well with the Boeing 777, 787 and 777X. However, Boeing is stretching the 777 further as part of the revamp to the 777-9X and is making it larger than the A350-1000. In a recent campaign, Lufthansa bought A350-900s and 777-9Xs. It is replacing A340-300s and Boeing 747-400s.

Airbus has so far stated that it does not see a need to stretch the A350 beyond the -1000, which seats around 350 passengers in three classes depending on configuration. But the gap between it and the next larger Airbus model, the A380, is around 170 seats according to standard layouts. On the Boeing side, the proposed 777-9X is now almost the same size as the 747-8 at up to 400 seats.

Leahy later downplayed his comments saying that “you don’t have a story here.” He argued that Boeing is stretching the 777 further to get to the unit cost improvements needed, but not because of the market. Leahy, instead, has doubts that there is a large enough market in the 400-seat category.