Airbus has been hard at work designing and building NEO versions of its most popular aircraft. They have built the A320neo, the A321neo and just recently flew the A319neo… but could we ever see an A310neo?
The A310 was the second aircraft to ever be built by Airbus. After the successful launch of the A300, airlines asked if a shrunken 220 seater version could be made (the A300 carried around 300 passengers) to help feed their international routes domestically across Europe. In 1983, the A310 took to the skies and became half as popular as the A300, with 255 orders during the production cycle.
The A310 would go on to serve valiantly well into the modern decade, with only the very last commercial flight ending in 2019. With the aircraft having such sustained (although a bit niche) popularity for the last 30 years, is there case for an A310neo version? And what would it look like?
What would an A310neo look like?
NEO, which stands for ‘New Engine Option’ is about more than just attaching better and more fuel-efficient engines to popular Airbus aircraft. Not only are most of the fleet redesigned for better fuel efficiency and passenger experience, but the projects have led to the development of whole new aircraft, like the A321neo XLR.
An A310neo would fall above the popular Airbus A320neo range in terms of capacity but would slot in just below the A330 series. It would find a balance for airlines who want a larger aircraft, perhaps to do trans-continental journeys, but without committing to the larger A330.
- A320neo family – 140 – 206 passengers to a range of 6,500 – 7,400 km
- A310neo – 220-240 passengers to a range of 7,000 km
- A330neo – 257 – 287 passengers to a range of 7,200 – 8,150 km
It would be built to the same specifications as the A320neo family, with a focus on value over features. This would mean construction might use cheaper materials (say compared to the composites of the A350 or Boeing 787), but it would also mean that Airbus would not have to significantly invest in upgrading their A330 production line.
The A310neo would not only see a 10% improvement on fuel efficiency compared to the older model but a more spacious cabin (with an additional 20 seats onboard) and an extra bathroom.
Which airlines would be interested in an A310neo?
Let us imagine Airbus read this article and thought “Gee, what a good idea” and built the A310. Who would they try to sell it to? Where would it be the most effective?
- Whilst at first it might seem airlines who want to upgrade from the A320ceo might be interested, but it is unlikely that they would really want to pay for a difference of 40 more passengers and an ‘improvement’ on the range. They are likely to look towards the A320neo (or one of its variants, such as the A321neo).
- Perhaps the airlines awaiting the Boeing 797, dubbed the “middle of the market” aircraft. The A310neo would fit in the bottom end of the gap (225-270 passengers) and would be beaten by a twin-aisled 797. Plus Airbus already has an A330neo-800 that can fill that market.
Looking at its design, it would be a shorter version of the proposed Airbus A370, a single-aisle narrowbody long haul aircraft.
Thus the A310neo would be best suited for high-frequency niche routes, around 500-2000 nmi.
“Whether it is Airbus A330 or Boeing 787, wide-bodies are just too powerful and overly heavy to carry 200-250 passengers on a 1000-2000 km long route. Moreover, operating a wide-body for a short-haul flight means that the aircraft will run out of its resources substantially faster than planned. And repairing a wide-body sometimes calls for a dozen times larger investment than in the narrow-body case“, comments Tadas Goberis, the CEO of AviaAM Leasing to Aviation Pros.
This means it would be perfect for point to point travel between Europe and North America, or perhaps even Europe to Asia. This aircraft could bypass hub cities (such as New York) and fly direct to destinations (such as Manchester to Boston, or Budapest to Quebec City).
This would suit low-cost carriers looking to enter the point to point market (like Moxy) or perhaps flag carriers keen to enter that space.
Would Airbus ever build an A310neo?
Unfortunately, designing a new aircraft is expensive, even if they are based on an old paper design (Yes, the original plans of the A310 are literally on paper and would cost a small fortune to convert to digital). Airbus is really pushing forward with the A321XLR and A330neo-800 to fill both ends of the gap and would consider an A310neo too niche.
What do you think? Would Airbus ever build the A310?