Airbus A350 vs. Boeing 787: How Do They Compare?

Visit any busy airport today and the chances are you’ll see at least some Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s parked there. These two very successful aircraft are dominating our skies, and rightly so. They are very efficient and have incredible ranges.

Whilst these two aircraft are currently competing head-to-head for sales, they were not originally conceived as direct rivals. The 787 was built as a new way to service point-to-point long-haul air travel with its long range and medium seating capacity. The A350, on the other hand, is marketed as a higher-capacity aircraft competing directly with other large widebody twins like the 777 and replacing older Airbus widebodies like the A340.

In this article, I look at these two aircraft from a number of different perspectives, so, let’s see how these long-haul, widebody competitors compare in terms of key attributes such as size, seating capacity, range, and orders.

Airbus A350 vs. Boeing 787: How Do They Compare?


The A350 family has two main passenger versions: the A350-900 and the longer fuselage A350-1000; and an upcoming freighter version, the A350F. The A350-900 is also available as an Ultra Long Range model (A350-900ULR) with a range of up to 9,700nmi, achieved through a modified fuel system that increases the aircraft’s fuel carrying capacity without the need for additional fuel tanks. The A350-900ULR is capable of flying an amazing 20 hours non-stop.

When Airbus originally launched the A350 program, there were three variants – the A350-800, A350-900, and the A350-1000. However, only the A350-900 and A350-1000 moved into production, despite the A350-800 receiving a fair number of orders initially.

The A350-800 orders began to disappear as buyers converted to the larger A350-900 and subsequently became attracted to the A330neo that was launched at the 2014 Farnborough Airshow. Shortly after this airshow, Airbus canceled the A350-800 and tried to persuade its A350-800 customers to switch to the A350-900 or the A330neo. Most did switch but not all.

The available A350 variants are listed below:

VariantTypeEntry into Service
A350-900ULR (Ultra Long Range)Passenger2018
A350FFreighter2025 (Exp.)

The first A350 prototype flew in June 2013, and type certifications from both EASA and the FAA were achieved in 2014. The A350 is the first Airbus aircraft largely made of carbon-fiber-reinforced polymers.

In January 2015, the first A350-900 entered service with Qatar Airways, followed by the A350-1000 in February 2018, also with Qatar Airways. The A350F freighter version is available for order, but as of February 2023, no A350F aircraft have been delivered.

Airbus A350-900

The 787 family is available in three variants:

Aircraft ModelTypeFirst In Service

The 787 development was driven by a need to produce more fuel-efficient aircraft. Boeing targeted 20% less consumption than the aircraft that the 787 was to replace, (such as the 767), a carrying capacity of 200 to 300 passengers, and deployment mainly on point-to-point routes of up to 8,500nmi (15,700km).

The 787 was the first airliner developed with an airframe made mostly from composite materials. The 787 has a distinctive and recognizable appearance with its four-window cockpit and its raked wingtips.

The first 787 was delivered to ANA in 2011. The stretched 787-9 entered service in 2014, also with ANA. The further stretched 787-10 entered service with Singapore Airlines in 2018.

Boeing 787-10


Let’s take a look at some key physical characteristics and see how the passenger versions of these two aircraft measure up against each other. Generally speaking, the 787 is a slightly smaller aircraft than the A350, except that the longest 787 variant, the 787-10, is slightly longer than the shortest A350 variant, the A350-900, by 1.5m.

Both the A350 and the 787 (all variants) are classified as FAA Group V aircraft with wingspans between 52m and 65m.

Aircraft ModelLength/ mWingspan/ mTail Height/ mFuselage Width/ mMTOW/ tonnes


The A350 is flexible enough to fly efficiently all sectors from short-haul to ultra-long-haul routes, with a maximum range of up to 9,700nm for the A350-900ULR allowing more than 20 hours of flying time. The ranges of the A350 variants are shown in the table below.

Aircraft ModelRange
A350-9008,300nm (15,372km)
A350-900ULR9,700nm (18,000km)
A350-10008,700nm (16,112km)

All 787 variants have relatively long ranges which vary from around 11,700km to 14,000km. The ranges of the 787 variants are shown in the table below.

Aircraft ModelRange
B787-87,305nm (13,530km)
B787-97,565nm (14,010km)
B787-106,330nm (11,730km)

Similar to the A350, the 787 has proven to be a highly adaptable all-purpose aircraft, and it operates some of the longest direct air routes in the world such as Tokyo-Boston, Los Angeles-Melbourne, and the incredible London-Perth route. But, the 787  is also deployed by some airlines on some very short routes such as domestic routes in Japan, confirming how versatile this aircraft can be.

Boeing 787-9

Seat Capacity and Cabin Layout

The A350 typically carries anywhere between around 250 and 400 passengers in two- or three-class cabin configurations.

I have looked at the seating configurations of this aircraft’s biggest customers currently operating A350s (Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, Air France, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Air China, Virgin Atlantic, and Cathay Pacific). Typically, this aircraft is configured with three-class or two-class seating configurations, and the ranges of seat numbers are set out in the table below:

A350-900161 – 303253 – 325
A350-1000327331 – 397

You can see that seating numbers vary significantly even for the same aircraft with the same number of cabins. The two-class configuration with 161 seats is a bit of an outlier and belongs to Singapore Airlines’ A350-900ULRs used on its long-haul routes to the USA which are fitted out with only business and premium economy class seats.

Airbus suggests that the A350 can carry 300-350 (A350-900) or 350-410 (A350-1000) passengers in typical three-class configurations, and up to 440 passengers in a single-class layout for the A350-900, and 480 passengers for the A350-1000, although I don’t see single class configurations used by any of the main operators.

The A350 interior typically allows cabin configurations of nine seats per row in economy class, eight seats per row in premium economy, and four seats per row in business class, with a twin-aisle arrangement.

The table below shows the passenger typical 2-class cabin configuration seating capacities of the 787 variants published by Boeing.

ModelPassengers (Typical 2-Class Seating)

In practice, airlines have fitted out the 787 in a wide range of cabin configurations, many with three or even four cabin classes. Total seat numbers vary widely depending on the proportion of the total aircraft cabin dedicated to premium cabins, and whether flatbed seats are installed in the premium cabins.

The twin-aisle 787 typically has eight or nine seats abreast in economy class (3-2-3, 2-4-2, 3-3-3), with nine seats abreast being the more common configuration. Seat rows can be arranged in four to seven abreast in first or business, e.g. 1–⁠2–⁠1,2–⁠2–⁠2, or 2–⁠3–⁠2. As an example, British Airways 4-class B787s are four abreast in first class (2-2), seven abreast in business and premium economy class (2-3-2), and nine abreast in economy class (3-3-3).

Airbus A350-1000

Customers and Orders

As of the end of February 2023, Airbus has received a total of 948 orders for the A350 of which it has delivered 524 (55%). So far, the A350-900 is the most popular of the A350 variants accounting for 79% of orders and 87% of deliveries. So far, no A350F aircraft have been delivered.

Significant A350 customers include Qatar Airways, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Air France, Cathay Pacific, United Airlines, and Lufthansa, with Qatar Airways placing the most A350 orders – a total of 76 A350-900s (34) and A350-100s (42).

Boeing 787 deliveries to the end of February 2023 totaled 1,041 aircraft and, of these, the split between the three 787 variants is as follows:

  • 787-8: 386
  • 787-9: 580
  • 787-10: 75

To date, the 787-9 accounts for 56% of the total 787 deliveries.

At the end of February 2023, Boeing had 574 unfulfilled orders for the 787, the majority of which were for the 787-9 (75%). Adding deliveries and unfulfilled orders together, the 787-9 is the most popular 787 variant with a total of 1,010 aircraft, representing 63% of all 787 deliveries and unfulfilled orders combined at the end of February 2023.

In total, the 787 deliveries and unfulfilled orders at the end of February 2023 were 1,615 aircraft (1,041 deliveries and 574 unfulfilled orders).

Significant 787 customers include United Airlines, All Nippon Airways, American Airlines, Qantas, Etihad, Qatar Airways, Japan Airlines, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, and leasing companies such as International Lease Finance Corporation and Air Lease Corporation.

Boeing 787-8

Airbus A350 vs. Boeing 787: Summary

The A350 and 787 widebody rivals are physically similar, although in broad terms the A350 is slightly larger and has a higher seating capacity. In a separate article, we wrote in more detail about the specs of the Boeing 787.

The 787 came slightly before the A350 and entered commercial service in 2011, compared to 2015 for the A350. Both aircraft are in full production with significant order backlogs. So far, Airbus has delivered only 55% of the total A350 orders received by the end of February 2023, whereas Boeing has delivered 64% of its B787 total orders. The 787 has received more orders than the A350 but has had a 4-year head start on its rival.

It’s clear that these highly-efficient long-range widebodies are going to be gracing our skies for many years to come.

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