Airbus A330neo Vs Boeing 787-9 – Which Plane Is Best?

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Several people may not know that the A330neo was always being touted as the answer to the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner (With the Airbus A350 vs. the Boeing 787-10 being the long-range competition). First revealed at the 2014 Farnborough Airshow, the Airbus aircraft has been gaining ground within the industry. However, how does it compare with its widebody competitor?

Air New Zealand Dreamliner 787-9
Is the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner better than the Airbus A330neo? Photo: Getty Images

Following the A330neo’s introduction with TAP Portugal at the end of 2018, Airbus hoped to inspire other airlines to take up the jet.

Critics have been quick to point out that the 787 has been built on a whole new design while the A330 is based on a legacy design that is in dire need of updating. The 787-9, of course, has found great success serving Qantas on their long-haul Perth to London route.

TAP A330neo
TAP Air Portugal proudly received the first A330neo two years ago. Photo: Airbus

Which planes will we be comparing?

Now, there are plenty of versions of both the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A330neo. Specifically Boeing 787 -8, -9, -10 and Airbus A330 -800 and -900 (Both classed as neo). Ultimately, these models sort of leapfrog each other, with Airbus trying to beat Boeing’s offerings at each turn.

We will be looking at the relationship between the A330-900 and the Boeing 787-9. The Airbus A330-800 has had very little orders (14 in total), and the Boeing 787-10 is easily matched by the Airbus A350 (Which you can read here!).

Also, we will be looking at what makes the most sense from an airline point of view, rather than what is more comfortable for passengers. The Airbus will be very quiet, and the Boeing will have more room, but do these translate into dollar signs?

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So which is better? Let’s find out.

A330neo
The A330-800 variant is nowhere near as popular as its sibling, the A330-900. Photo: Getty Images

Specifications

Boeing 787-9

Cockpit crew: Two

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Capacity: 406 (1-class) up to 296 (2-class)

Exit Limit (Total possible passengers): 420 Passengers

Length: 206 ft 1 in / 62.81 m

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Wingspan: 197 ft 3 in / 60.12 m

Wing area: 4,058 sq ft / 377 m2

Tail height: 55 ft 10 in / 17.02 m

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Cabin width: 18 ft 0 in / 5.49 m

Maximum takeoff weight: 560,000 lbs. / 254,011 kg

Cruising speed: Mach 0.85 / 488 kn / 903 km/h

Fuel capacity: 33,384 US gal / 126,372 L

Range: 7,635 NM / 14,140 km

LATAM 787 Getty
There are some evident similarities between the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner and Airbus A330neo aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

Airbus A330neo

Cockpit crew: Two

Capacity: 420 (1-class) up to 304 (2-class)

Exit Limit (Total possible passengers): 440 passengers

Length: 208.9 ft / 63.66 m

Wingspan: 210 ft / 64 m

Wing area: 5,010 sq ft / 465 m2

Tail height: 38 ft 7 in / 11.76 m

Cabin width: 17ft 3in / 5.26m

Maximum takeoff weight: 553,000 lbs. / 250,836 kg

Cruising speed: Mach 0.86 / 496 kn / 918 km/h

Fuel capacity: 36,740 US gal / 139,090 L

Range: 7,200 NM / 13,334 km

A Garuda Indonesia Airbus A330neo jet engine. Photo: Getty Images

Capacity

This is where most airlines will make their money, and it’s no exception in this case. The Airbus A330neo has listed a higher exit row than the Boeing and can sit extra passengers in a two-class configuration.

Winner: Airbus A330neo

TAP A330neo Interior
The Airbus A330neo edges out the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner when it comes to capacity onboard the aircraft. Photo: TAP Air Portugal

Dimensions

Both the planes are roughly equal in size, but the Boeing 787-9 has a little more room inside width wise. Nonetheless, the A330neo is slightly longer. Altogether, when it comes to the overall capabilities of the pair, there is a minimal difference with these factors.

Winner: Draw

Vietnam Airlines getty
It is hard to separate the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner from its European counterpart when it comes to dimensions. Photo: Getty Images

Fuel efficiency and range

This is where it gets exciting. This is because the Boeing 787 is made out of composite materials, and the A330neo is made out of the typical heavy metals in most plane production. Both twinjets are pretty efficient compared with other widebodies in the industry. However, we see a relationship between fuel capacity and range, that the Boeing 787-9 has a bigger range with less fuel.

However, Airbus highlights the incorporation of the latest-generation Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines. It also promotes other aerodynamic improvements such as its famed Sharklet wingtip devices that provide four meters of increased wingspan, along with increased lift and reduced drag. These factors help the jet provide efficiency and generate savings through reduced fuel burn.

The range of the 787-9 broke ground when it was introduced in September 2013. The abilities of the jet created a buzz over the years after its entry into service. Before the Airbus A350-900ULR conducted the direct route between Singapore and Newark, the world’s longest route, the 787-9 had already made a name for itself. Qantas had implemented the jet on its longest route, which was the only nonstop service from Australia to the United Kingdom between Perth and London.

The 787-9 Dreamliner performed several other groundbreaking long-distance flights over the years. However, a recent yet notable long-range operation with the 787-9 was Air Tahiti Nui’s 16-hour nonstop flight between Tahiti and Paris. This was the world’s longest domestic flight at the time.

Winner: Boeing 787

Etihad Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Boeing is flying high with the Dreamliner when it comes to efficiency and range against several widebody jets within the industry. Photo: Getty Images

How much does each plane cost?

Airbus has always prided itself on trying to outdo Boeing on price (thanks to their government subsidization). However, it looks like in this scenario, Airbus is unable to beat the production line already set up by Boeing. (Prices as of 2018).

  • Airbus A330neo $296.4 million
  • Boeing 787-9 $281.6 million

Winner: Boeing 787

United Boeing 787 Getty
The price is right in regards to the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Getty Images

Which plane is better?

This is a tough question. Essentially, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner is cheaper to buy and has a better range.

Virgin Atlantic 787-9
Does the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner take the cake following the comparison with the Airbus A330neo? Photo: Getty Images

However, the A330neo can fit more passengers on board and will be a close competitor on routes that are shorter than their maximum range.

FRANCE-AIRBUS-A330NEO-AVIATION Getty
Does Airbus bring home the trophy with its A330neo aircraft? Getty Images

What the airlines think

Perhaps we can take a look at what the carriers say about the two aircraft types. According to a press release seen by Simple Flying, Antonoaldo Neves, former TAP Air Portugal chief executive officer, said the following about the A330-900 when taking on the aircraft:

“I am delighted to welcome the first Airbus A330-900 into our expanding fleet. Its unbeatable economics and efficiency will power our business forward,“ Neves shared in the statement.

“The A330neo will give us a lot of operational flexibility thanks to its commonality with the other Airbus aircraft in our fleet. This aircraft will be the first equipped with the new Airspace cabin, which is a new concept shaped to meet TAP’s ambition to offer the best product in the industry to our passengers.”

TAP Air Portugal
Currently, TAP Air Portugal holds 19 A330neo aircraft within its fleet. Photo: Airbus

According to another press release seen by Simple Flying, Yutaka Ito, EVP of ANA and ANA HD, said the following about the Dreamliner when confirming an order for more 787-9 and 787-20 planes earlier this year.

“Boeing’s 787s have served ANA with distinction, and we are proud to expand our fleet by adding more of these technologically advanced aircraft,” Ito said in the statement.

“These planes represent a significant step forward for ANA as we work to make our entire fleet more eco-friendly and to reduce noise output.

Ultimately, the airline highlighted that the 787 order would help the company maintain its leadership role and enhance its ability to serve as a responsible corporate citizen.

ANA business class
ANA All Nippon Airways holds three different variants of the 787 Dreamliner within its fleet. Photo: Getty Images

The bottom line

Above all, which plane is better can be subjective. Different airlines have different requirements for their widebody operations. Therefore, they may choose one aircraft over the other, depending on their needs. After the A330neo has been in the skies for some more years, we can look back at the success of the two types and compare them once again.

The current industry climate is undoubtedly also revising fleet plans over the next few years. Many widebody aircraft are currently grounded amid the ongoing international travel restrictions. However, once the market recovers, both the A330neo and 787-9 Dreamliner will be trusted members of many fleets across the globe.

Altogether, what do you think is the better aircraft out of the A330neo and Boeing 787-9? How has your experience of flying both planes been over the years? Let us know what your thoughts are of the two jets in the comment section.

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