The world's newest jetliner, the Airbus A350, took to the skies today carrying its first paying passengers from Qatar to Frankfurt, Germany. The Qatar Airways flight marks the debut of the relatively lightweight, twin-aisle, long-range plane, which promises to connect smaller cities with major aviation hubs nonstop at a cheaper cost for airlines. For passengers, the new plane offers wider panoramic windows and larger overhead storage space, plus the ability to limit connections. The A350 is the third major new aircraft in a decade. First there was the double-decker Airbus A380, which debuted in October 2007, followed by the lightweight Boeing 787 "Dreamliner," which carried its first passengers in October 2011.
As with the Dreamliner, the A350's lightweight design allows it to burn significantly less fuel than other jets of similar size—but after the Boeing aircraft was grounded in early 2013 because of problems with its lithium-ion batteries, Airbus decided to forego lithium-ion technology on the A350 in favor of traditional, but heavier, batteries. Airbus says the A350, which can fly 276 to 369 passengers, will help open up nonstop routes like Shanghai to Boston or Paris to Santiago, Chile. A larger version of the jet, which is scheduled to start flying in 2017, aims to compete with Boeing's long-range 777-300.