Ten years ago, the boss of Qatar Airways warned Airbus it was flying off course.
Boeing was knocking on his door with a "super-efficient" jet boasting 30% fuel savings thanks to a carbon-composite design.
In Toulouse, some Airbus engineers, riding high after overtaking Boeing and suspecting a short-lived marketing stunt, laughed off the future 787 with a "tail like a dolphin".
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker urged Airbus to take the 787 seriously and said its draft response, a quick fix to its A330 with new General Electric engines, was inadequate.
As Qatar Airways planned for rapid regional and long-haul growth, Al Baker recalls, "there was a requirement for an aircraft that has capacity that is optimal on two fronts: customer comfort and technologically forward-thinking".
That clamour for both cabin comfort and better economics eventually forced Airbus into a fundamental shift in strategy.
But after Al Baker's warning, it took another 2 years of sales setbacks and doubts at the highest management level before Airbus agreed to build the A350XWB.
That story was revealed by Reuters just before the 1st Delivery of the A350 to Qatar Airways on 22/Dec “after interviews with customers, suppliers and industry sources. Airbus declined comment.”
Based on the article “Flying back on course: the inside story of the new Airbus A350 jet” published in Reuters.