The Airbus A330 was an update to the successful A300, and Airbus would make two versions of the aircraft, the A330-200, and the A330-300. But what is the difference between them? Let’s explore.
Humble beginning of the type
Airbus recognized a demand for widebody aircraft able to operate high-capacity, medium-range, transcontinental trunk routes. Flights like Paris to Istanbul were popular enough for a bigger plane than the A300 but didn’t justify a huge Boeing 747 with four engines.
Airbus also wanted an aircraft to replace the DC-10 and the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar trijets (with only two engines, the A330 concept would significantly reduce fuel burn).
They designed the Airbus A330 and A340 concurrently, which you can read about here. The first to the market was the A330-300. When Boeing released the 767, Airbus A330-300 sales slumped. The European planemaker recognized that the industry needed a smaller, higher range version – the A330-200.
Both versions have been successful, and Airbus has re-released the versions with new engines (and other improvements) as the A330neo.
How different is the smaller A330-200 compared to the original A330-300? Let’s start with the passengers.
According to the Airbus website, the aircraft is offered with the following configurations:
- Airbus A330-200 can seat up to 250 passengers in two classes. A typical configuration might be 246 passengers with 36 in business (with 60 inches of legroom) and 210 in economy with (32 inches of legroom)
- Airbus A330-300 can seat up to 290 passengers in two classes. This might be 36 in business and 254 in economy.
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Airlines do routinely change or configure the aircraft to their liking (such as adding in much-denser configurations with no leg room); thus take these numbers with a grain of salt. For the most accurate number, you need to look at the aircraft exit limits:
- Airbus A330-200 has a maximum capacity of 406 passengers (all economy).
- Airbus A330-300 has a maximum capacity of 440 passengers (all economy).
An exit limit is decided by how many passengers you can sit and exit in an emergency—a number determined by aisles, seat configuration, and how many exits. The more exits there are, the higher the capacity will be.
Airbus did also offer a ‘regional’ version of the A330-300, which had seats for around 400 passengers at a reduced range down to 5,000 km (2,700 nautical miles).
The bigger A330-300 has less range than the smaller A330-200, or more precisely:
- The A330-200 has a range of 13,450 km or 7,262 nautical miles.
- The A330-300 has a range of 11,750 km or 6,344 nautical miles.
The A330-200 has a more extended range as it has the same engines as the A330 (or newer) but is a lighter aircraft.
The A330-200 was such a good design that Airbus would use it as the template for the cargo version of the A330 (not the A330-300), as well as the corporate VIP version of the A330 (that can carry 50 passengers 15,400 km or 8,300 nautical miles).
What do you think of the differences between the two types of Airbus A330? Let us know in the comments.