Aircalin Grounds Brand New Airbus A330neo Due To Smelly Cabin

Aircalin might be glad it kept one of its old Airbus A330-200s around after removing it from commercial service. This is because one of the airline’s two new Airbus A330neos is grounded. The aircraft, given the name “Luengöni” (a beach in New Caledonia), was grounded due to “suspicious odors of oil in the cabin”. Experts from Airbus and Rolls-Royce were sent to investigate the situation.

Aircalin Airbus A330-900
Aircalin will soon be the proud owner of two Airbus A330neos. Photo: Airbus.

Brand new aircraft

Aircalin took possession of its first new Airbus A330neo in August and has been flying regularly scheduled service between Noumea/La Tontouta and Tokyo Narita ever since. The second A330neo, registration F-ONET, was delivered to the airline on October 1st. Before its grounding, the aircraft was flying to destinations including Sydney, Osaka, and Tokyo.

Barely a month later, the aircraft had to be inspected due to suspicious odors. According to FranceInfo, odors of oil had been occasionally reported in the cabin on certain flights by crew. In fact, some complained of headaches or respiratory and eye irritation. It’s been eight days and the aircraft still remains on the ground.

According to FranceInfo, experts from Airbus and Rolls-Royce have been unable to establish the origin of this smell. As such, the plane is expected to head to Airbus facilities in Toulouse, France to be examined more extensively.

Aircalin A330neo Economy Class
Aircalin A330neo Economy Class. The smell was noticed within the cabin of the aircraft. Photo: Air Journal/Aircalin.

Old aircraft to the rescue

For such a small fleet, the absence of one A330 means a 50% reduction in long-haul services. Thankfully, although the airline’s A330-200s officially stopped commercial service at the end of September, one (registration F-OJSE) has been kept around and has been filling in the gap. The other aircraft was returned to the leasing company.

This old aircraft has been with the Aircalin fleet for 17 years, since its delivery in 2002.

Aircalin A330neo
Aircalin receiving the first of two A330neos from Airbus at Toulouse. Photo: Airbus press release

Smells grounding aircraft

We have reported several times on suspicious smells grounding aircraft. In fact, earlier this month a United Airlines flight had to make an emergency landing due to the smell of smoke. Last month, the smell of the exotic fruit, durian, caused an Air Canada Rouge flight to make an emergency landing. A shipment of the exotic fruit was found in the forward cargo compartment. The potent nature of the fruit caused its scent to make its way to the main cabin.

Unusual smells inside an aircraft can often indicate operational faults – posing a risk to the flight and the safety of passengers. Earlier this summer, a Virgin Australia flight to Hong Kong made an emergency landing in Melbourne shortly after departing. This was due to a suspected fuel leak in the right engine.


It’s certainly a shame that such a brand new aircraft has to spend so much time on the ground and out of service. Hopefully more extensive examination in Toulouse will uncover some answers! Have you flown on either of the new AirCalin A330neos yet? Let us know how the experience was by leaving a comment!

We reached out to the airline, as well as Airbus for a comment. However, no response has been received yet.