The new regional variant of the Airbus A350 is to be optimized for routes of up to 6,800 nm. and will feature derated engines and a lower maximum take-off weight.

The aircraft version has been selected by Etihad Airways as part of an order for 40 A350-900s, 24 of them will have the lower take-off weight certification.

¨We are not building a new product,¨ Airbus Senior Vice President Marketing, Chris Emerson, says. But ¨we are getting in the shorthaul market.¨ Airbus is taking the existing A350-900 and adapting it to the requirements of shorter haul flying. The maximum take-off weight will be reduced to around 250 tons from the 268 tons of the standard longhaul version of the A350-900. Engine thrust is expected to be around 70,000lb, compared to 85,000lb for the standard -900 and 97,000lb for the -1000 Rolls-Royce TrentXWB engine.

Most changes will affect the cabin. Airbus plans to reduce the space taken by the galleys or even remove them altogether. Depending on the seating configuration and the standard chosen for any business class section, the regional variant could have space for around 350-360 passengers and more if a single class layout is selected.

Airbus is positioning the aircraft for higher ranges than the A330 regional, which is optimized for routes of up to 2,000 nm. And while the A330 is marketed as a nine-abreast aircraft (compared to eight-abreast for the longer haul version), Airbus does not plan to position the A350 regional version at ten-abreast (compared to the standard nine-abreast).

As part of its efforts to improve unit costs for the A380, Airbus is working on ways to accomodate eleven-abreast economy seating on the main deck. That option would only be available between doors two and four, whereas between doors one and two and doors four and five the configuration would remain at ten-abreast, Emerson says. Emirates Airline President Tim Clark said on Sunday that the airline is studying options to go to the denser economy configuration.