Airbus - a major source of work for aerospace component manufacturers in the West Midlands - has confirmed it is ready to discuss possible improvements to its future A350 airliner after receiving several complaints about the mid-sized wide-body aircraft.

"I want to note that Airbus listens to its customers. We are ready to make extra efforts to respond to their expectations," chief executive Gustav Humbert said.

Some key Airbus customers, including Singapore Airlines, have criticised Airbus for not doing enough to make the A350 competitive with rival Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

Influential aircraft leasing executive Steven Udvar-Hazy, chief executive of International Lease Finance Corporation, recently said Airbus ought to widen the fuselage and redesign the wing on the A350, encouraging the plane-maker to offer a truly new plane to take on the all-new Boeing 787, and not to rely on design elements of the 20-year old A330 model.

The criticism is adding to increasing pressure on Airbus to return to the drawing board at a time when the manufacturer is already facing delays on its double-decker A380 super-jumbo programme and slumping sales of its fourengine A340.

Airbus introduced the A350 in 2004 as its answer to Boeing's twin-aisle 787 Dreamliner, which has sold out the first three years of production.

"Sales figures from our competitor of long-haul planes are starting to be better than ours, but this is a very recent development. All the same, we have 182 commitments for the A350, and Boeing sales benefit from the fact that they launched the 787 earlier," Humbert said.

On BAE Systems' plan to sell its 20 per cent stake in Airbus to parent company EADS, Mr Humbert said that while the transaction was expected the timetable was a "real surprise".

Europe's largest defence company BAE announced plans last Friday to sell the stake, valued at 3.5 billion euros in EADS's books, to make acquisitions in the United States.

Mr Humbert said the stake sale would not result in job losses in Britain.

Meanwhile, a new airline yesterday announced plans to raise £25 million for the launch of a low-fares operation serving New York-bound business class travellers.

Silverjet intends to run a Luton to Newark route with a low-cost airline model similar to that of short haul airlines, such as easyJet and Ryanair.

The company will raise funds for the venture through a listing on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in May and will launch its service six to nine months later.

Chief executive Lawrence Hunt, who has been working on developing the business for two years, believes the service could revolutionise the long haul business class market.

Fares will be substantially less than existing fares for business class travel and below current average premium economy travel with average return fares around £999, he said.

This compares to current prices for a flat-bed business class service of between £2,500 and £5,000.

The management team includes chairman Peter Owen, who was at British Airways for 21 years and customer experience director Martyn Bridger, who was head of in-flight services for BA where he worked for 24 years.

John Bavister, formerly at Thomas Cook, takes on the role of finance director and Peter Evans who was head of operations at Virgin Atlantic is the operations director. Dave Simmons, sales and marketing director, has set up marketing programmes for BA, American Airlines and Ryanair.