Unidentified Customer Orders 40 Airbus A330neos

In December 2019, Airbus revealed that an order for 40 A330neo jets was placed. This order has a little bit of mystery to it as it has been attributed to an unidentified customer. Obviously, the big question is, who could it be? Let’s dig a little deeper.

Unidentified Customer Orders 40 Airbus A330neos
The -900 variant of the A330neo has proven to be far more popular than the smaller -800. Photo: Alex Cheban / Wikimedia Commons

Looking at Airbus’ December 2019 numbers for orders and deliveries, A330neo orders to date have totaled 337. Broken down, there are only 14 orders for the -800 but a whopping 323 for the longer -900 variant. In 2019 alone, net orders for the A330neo reached 99 aircraft.

The order, according to FlightGlobal, was placed on 23 December and is specifically for the larger A330-900 variant – which is exclusively powered by the Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engine.

Could it be Emirates?

Early last year, mid-February to be precise, we reported that Emirates had ordered 40 A330-900s. This order also included 30 A350-900s. However, this exciting news never fully became a reality.

Aero Telegraph reported that this February 2019 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was never converted into a firm order. This is because, in November, Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury and Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum instead signed a firm purchase for 50 A350-900s during the Dubai Airshow. Emirates said this new deal replaced the February MoU.

However, looking at this latest news, the number ’40’ seems to be the common thread in both stories. Could Emirates have had a change of heart towards the A330neo? We asked the airline – but we’re not getting our hopes up that they would disclose that information to us (if it is them).

Emirates, Airbus A330, Order
Emirates replaced its Airbus A330neo order with a larger A350 order. Photo: Emirates

Other possibilities

Not many airlines around the world are large enough to need 40 widebody aircraft like the A330-900neo. China has several major carriers capable of operating such a large number of aircraft – could it be China Eastern or Air China?

Or maybe the unidentified customer isn’t a single airline, but rather, several airlines in the form of an airline group. The better-known airline groups include IAG and the Lufthansa Group. An order like this would offer the group the benefits of a large-order-discount whilst being able to split up the order among its portfolio of airlines.

Far less exciting is the prospect that one of the world’s major aircraft leasing companies has placed the order. Aircraft lessors provide much-needed flexibility to airlines that either urgently need increased capacity, or only see a need for more capacity for a limited period of time. Some of the world’s largest and most well-known leasing companies include AerCap, GECAS, Air Lease Corporation, and Nordic Aviation Capital.


TAP first A330neo
TAP Portugal was one of the first airlines to add the A330neo to its fleet. Photo: Airbus

There are few airlines in the world that would make such a large order of widebody aircraft. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough details to make a highly educated guess. We’ll just have to be on the lookout for new announcements and press releases about this.

We reached out to Airbus to see if they could provide any additional details. We’ll update this article if anything else comes in.

Who do you think this undisclosed/unidentified customer is? Let us know who it might be by leaving a comment!