Differences between the Airbus A330 and A350

By guest blogger Jorge de Luis Sierra

The cabin interior looks almost (though not completely) the same in every Iberia’s widebody aircraft. Logicallly so, as branding harmonisation is common and coherent across its long-haul fleets. But taking into consideration that Iberia’s intercontinental routes are served only by Airbus A330s and A350s – made by its longtime partner Airbus (and soon it’s expecting the arrival of the A321 XLR – for extra long range!), aviation geeks might be interested to know how they can tell which model they’re flying on a given day. So here goes!

Distinguishing the Two Models via their Wings

If you have the time to examine the aircraft’s fuselage, while on the pre-boarding area or from the boarding bridge, you may notice a very characteristic feature that makes every A350 totally recognisable: the black shield looking like a “mask” across cockpit windows. None of the A330s have yet that detail, as this has been recently introduced by Airbus on the A330 NEOs – (New Engine Option).

Also have a look at the tips of the wings: if the shape is curvy on the angular transition making a smooth silhouette pointing up, then you are seeing the A350’s curved wingtip. The A330’s winglets, meanwhile have fin-like airfoils protruding from their tips. (For more on winglets, click here.)

The A350 and its Baggage Compartments

Inside the cabin area, there are in fact a couple of features that makes the A350 completely recognisable versus the A330. One is the upper bins for the luggage compartment. These have been completely redesigned for the A350. In the A330 the shape of the bin doors are curved and more rounded, and so are the latches, designed with a smooth arc. On the A350, though, the bin  doors themselves have a slight curve making the geometry looking more integrated and less bulky, and the latches now becomes rectangular.

On the A330 overhead compartments bottomline you will always find a prominent and useful handrail, where the seat number is embedded. On the A350, this feature is completely integrated in the shape, looking like a linear recess where also the seat numbers are placed.

Because of this redesign on the A350, there is more height above passengers’ heads, which enhances the visuals by making the area looking less crowded and more roomy.

Also Differences in the ‘Passenger Service Unit’

This is the panel above your head containing the reading lights, attendant call lights, and non-smoking and fasten-seatbelt signs. On the A350 there’s a digital display for the non-smoking and fasten seatbelt signs, while on the A330 this feature is a backlit sign. On the A350, the reading lights are under a plastic cover shield, while on the A330 you will find three or four  (depending on you seat-abreast configuration) individual downlight rounded spots. And regarding the attendant call light, on the A350 it is displayed on a blue color, while on the A330 is yellow.

Can You Tell from the Windows?

Sure can. Another feature that makes the aircraft type very recognisable is the window panel. For this one maybe you’d need to be a little bit more familiar with the cabins, and that might be a little bit more challenging for non-frequent flyers. The window panels on the A350 are more plain and with bigger window shape than the A330. The A330 shapes are more rounded and bulky, and the transition between panels are very visible on the vertical split every two windows. On the A350, the window panels have been redesigned also to give some more inches to the passenger shoulders, and the transition between panels is smoother with a barely visible vertical split line.

One Last Little Detail


Those with an eagle eye might spot at the very back of the A350 a small recess in the top of the central overhead compartment, just in the last three seat rows: here is located the cabin crew rest compartment. Yes, over the ceiling! They access from the galley behind and it consist of eight bunks. On the A330, this compartment is an adapted part of the cargo hold accessed from a stairway behind the central lavatories.

Check all this out on your next flight, and happy trails!


Jorge de Luis Sierra is an aircraft interior design specialist and aviation branding expert.