Airbus Secures 4 Orders For The Rare A330-800neo

Airbus has secured a surprising order for four more Airbus A330-800neos, the smaller and significantly less popular version of the A330neo series. In fact, this order represents an increase of 40% of all orders, from 10 to 14 in total.

A330-800 take off
The A330-800neo is still looking for its place in the market. Photo: Airbus Press Release, 2018.

What are the details of this surprise order?

Airbus has not revealed who the buyer is for these A330neo aircraft, only that they have four more to build as soon as the mainline production of the type begins. 

Currently, of the 10 orders, we do know is that eight are due for the launch airline Kuwait Airways and two are for Uganda Airlines. It is likely that this new order for four more aircraft will be from an airline that has a small fleet and is looking to expand out into the A330neo space.

But that category of airline is actually narrower than appears once you look at the popularity issues around the type.

Why is the A330neo unpopular?

There are two types of A330neo aircraft.

  • The A330-800 can carry up to 406 passengers (typically 257) to a range 8,150nmi / 15,094 km. This aircraft is weighted towards range and distance.
  • The A330-900, as the big brother, can carry up to 440 passengers (average 287 in a three-class layout) to a range of 7,200nmi / 13,334 km. This aircraft is weighted towards passengers.

They are designed to be ‘neo’ versions of the A330-200 and A330-300 much like the A320neo is to the A320.

To say they are unpopular is a bit deceptive, as the A330-900 actually has 285 orders so far in stark contracts to the A330-800 with 14. Rather, its the market conditions around the aircraft that make the sales slow.

Airbus Secures 4 Orders For The Rare A330-800neo
Kuwait A330-800neo. Photo: Airbus

As mentioned by Airbus at the Hi-Fly event, there are two major reasons why airlines have been slow to buy the A330-800. The first is that there are still plenty of young A330-200s on the market that airlines don’t need to replace (some under 10 years old). Secondly, there is a vast second-hand market of A330s (a side effect of building such a well-selling series) which means airlines don’t really need to order new right now. Airbus is confident that sales will increase soon.

A330-800 certification
On paper, it’s a great aircraft. Photo: Airbus

Who ordered the A330-800?

If there is a large number of A330-200s on the market, and most are young and cheaper than the A330-800 at list prices, why would an airline consider the A330-800 in the first place?

The mystery deepens especially when there is an arguably better A330-900 also available.

If we were to hazard a guess, we would suggest that this airline is a government flag carrier Central Asia (like for example Kazakhstan) with a vast country suited for long routes. They need a widebody that can go the distance, carry plentiful passengers and yet for political/economic reasons has chosen not to go with the more effective Boeing 787 (which offered cheaper fuel burn per seat).

Or perhaps it is an airline from the Pacific who is looking to match Fiji Airways with their cross pacific travel. The A330-800 is only useful for very very specific routes and we can’t wait to find out who it might be.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.