The Airbus A350's maiden flight ended with a safe landing today, setting the stage for intensifying competition with US rival Boeing in the long-haul wide-body aircraft market. Airspace at the airport in the southern French city of Toulouse, where Airbus has its headquarters, closed for both take-off and landing. The four-hour flight marks a key step on the path to full certification for the jet, which can carry between 250 and 400 passengers and is the European aircraft maker's best hope for catching up in a long-haul market dominated by Boeing's 787 and 777.
Boeing's list prices for its 787 line range from $206 million to $243 million. Airbus lists prices ranging from $254 million to $332 million, and had 613 orders as of May, compared with 890 orders for the 787. Steep discounts are common on large orders, although the details are rarely made public. Airbus claims the A350 burns 25% less fuel than the Boeing due to its lighter weight, redesigned Rolls Royce engines and new aerodynamics. (Read more Airbus A350 stories.)