Why Airlines Aren’t Ordering The Airbus A330-800neo

Airbus has one aircraft in their lineup that just isn’t selling. The A320 is the golden child with record sales; the A220 the new shiny new toy in the toybox; the A380 a beast retiring from a long great career; and the A330 a powerful workhorse that has stood the test of time.

A330-800 take off
The Airbus A330-800neo has a troubled future ahead of itself. Photo: Airbus Press Release, 2018.

But the A330-800neo, the smaller new NEO version of the A330, is struggling to find a place on the market.

Who has bought the A330-800neo so far?

The A330-800neo can carry 257 passengers in a 2-4-2 configuration. It has a range of around 8,150nmi / 15,094 km. Compared to the original A330, this is an improvement of 15 more passengers and a range increase of just under 1,000 nautical miles.

So far, there have been several interested airlines:

  • Hawaiian Airlines originally had an option on six A330-800neos, but decided to order ten B787-9s instead. Airbus complained but admitted that the Dreamliners were simply cheaper than the price Airbus could ever offer their aircraft for.
  • Kuwait Airways has confirmed an order for eight of the type, and will be the launch customer in 2020.
  • Uganda National Airlines Company has also ordered two of the aircraft.

This puts the total orders at 10 aircraft, and thus in a precarious position of whether or not Airbus will continue the production. After all, they canceled the A380 which had more orders than this in the pipeline.

Why Airlines Aren’t Ordering The Airbus A330-800neo
Uganda Airlines has ordered two A330-800s. Photo: Airbus

Why is the A330-800neo good?

Let’s not mistake the lack of orders to mean that the A330-800neo is not a fantastic aircraft. It has twin-aisles for easy boarding and disembarking, modern fuel efficiencies and passenger comforts found on all new Airbus aircraft. These include big windows, better humidity, and pressurization.

On paper, it’s a superb aircraft, well suited to a plethora of long and thin routes.

Could the A330-800neo be further tweaked to better compete? Image: Airbus

But why is no one ordering it?

There are actually a few reasons why airlines are not so interested:

  • Not a good A330 replacement – Many of the A330-200s that Airbus hopes to replace with the new type are actually a little too young. Typically, the airlines who have the A330-200 hope to use them for at least 10 years before ordering a replacement aircraft, and they’re not quite there yet.
  • Not a good Boeing 767 replacement – Many airlines have aging 767s that they would love to replace. However, either the A330-800neo doesn’t exactly scratch the itch perfectly or it came a little too late as the airlines have already found a replacement plane.
  • Not a good competitor to the 787-9 – Unfortunately, the A330-800neo is the lesser aircraft in that fight, costing more and being less fuel efficient. The fact that Hawaiian canceled their order for the 797-9 is very telling.

Airbus has thought to dial down the engine thrust and make the aircraft more economical over a short range, to compete with the larger variant of the Boeing 797. However, nothing concrete is in the pipeline yet. If Airbus can’t secure more orders for this type beyond the latter half of 2019 or early 2020, it is possible that this variant will be discontinued.

What do you think? Should the Airbus A330-800neo be discounted? Let us know in the comments.