European planemaker Airbus suffered a fresh setback to its largest twin-engined jet development, the A350-1000, when it emerged that Gulf carrier Etihad had cancelled seven aircraft worth $2.3 billion at current list prices.
The Abu Dhabi-based airline has now halved its order for the 350-seat jet in four months from 25 in November to 12 at the end of April, Airbus monthly figures showed on Monday.
Airbus has not sold any of the largest variant of its next-generation A350 since beefing up the design with bigger Rolls-Royce engines last June, while Boeing has been notching up record orders of the wide-body 777.
Airbus says it is confident a market will flourish for the long-distance jet and has said its only difficulty is the shortage of available delivery slots before 2018 or 2019.
“The A350-1000 is consistently more capable than the (Boeing) 777-300ER. It will cover the world with 25 percent less fuel burn,” an Airbus spokesman said.
Etihad was not immediately available for comment.
Airbus pushed back development of the stretched A350-1000 by two years when it decided to overhaul the design last year. The $320 million jet is now due to enter service in mid-2017.
Etihad ordered the next generation of Airbus jets in July 2008, saying it would be among the world’s most efficient.
The reduced A350-1000 order comes as Airbus makes a relatively slow start to the year after dominating the market in 2011 thanks to a revamp of its best-selling medium-range A320.