The beleaguered Airbus A330Neo has been thrown a lifeline by Kuwait Airways when the company confirmed that it was placing an order for 8 A330-800 series aircraft. The new order is estimated to cost Kuwait Airways $2 Billion since the A330-800 will set you back $255 million apiece. Although in all likelihood with dwindling sales Kuwait was probably able to drive a hard bargain and get a substantial discount. In addition to the new order, Kuwait has cut its order of A350 aircraft from ten to five.
Commenting about the purchase, the chairman of Kuwait Airways Yousef Al-Jassim said in a statement:
“The A330-800 will seamlessly fit into our fleet expansion and growth plans. Its unbeatable operating economics and performance in addition to best in class passenger comfort make it a sound investment. We are confident that the A330-800 will support us to compete effectively on our expanding route network. Our relationship with Airbus extends beyond aircraft acquisitions and we look forward to further collaboration on technical fields.”
Airbus Chief Commercial Officer, Christian Scherer added:
“We are delighted that Kuwait Airways has chosen the A330neo as a cornerstone of its future widebody fleet. The A330-800 with its unique efficiency and versatility will support the carrier’s ambition to develop its expanding long haul network… The aircraft will seamlessly complement Kuwait Airways’ A320neos and A350 XWBs and deliver unbeatable operating economics, full operational commonality and unmatched passenger experience.”
Why Did The A330Neo Fail?
By any measure, the A330Neo is a failure despite coming from a best-selling line of aircraft and is the perfect example of a product hitting the market at the wrong time. Its forerunner the A330 has sold more than 1,700 units, but the A330Neo revamp has not been able to get any traction with airlines. The key to its lacklustre performance is twofold; its fuel efficiency and capacity.
In 2014 when the A330Neo hit the market airlines simply wanted something else; airlines wanted planes with the best fuel efficiency possible. And simply the A330Neo could not compete with the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Second is a capacity issue, the base A330-800 only had a capacity of 257–significantly less than its main competitors, who are all capable of configuration with over 300 passengers on board. By the time the plane hit the market, airlines were looking for a sweet spot capacity of around 300 passengers or more, and great fuel efficiency and the A330Neo could not compete.
The fact that the iconic A330 will get a little longer lease of life through this purchase is good news, especially for Airbus employees. Although after the 8 planes are delivered Airbus will probably be better off sending the A330Neo to the great plane retirement home in the sky!