The Airbus A330neo program is the mid-range offering in the Airbus fleet, following the A320 series and before the A350 series. But there are actually two A330neo aircraft variants and they could not be more different from each other. What is the difference? Let us explore.
Why was the A330neo built?
The A330neo program is the successor to the Airbus A330 program, much like how the A320neo is the next step in the very popular A320 program. This upgrade includes new engines (hence the name NEO, or New Engine Option) as well as other minor improvements in the efficiency of the aircraft and some cabin improvements (better lighting and overhead bins).
What is notable however is that the aircraft upgrade does not include many features present in today’s new clean sheet designs like the Boeing 787 or Airbus A350; such as, bigger windows, better pressurization, wider space, etc.
Thus you might be wondering, why does the A330neo program exist if there are better aircraft? The answer is simple: Because it is cheap.
Compared to a brand new Boeing 787, the A330neo can be bought for around 50% of the price. Airbus does list it at around the same price (near $300 million USD per aircraft) as the Dreamliner, but as the development costs were significantly cheaper ($2 billion USD vs $36 billion USD for the Airbus A330neo and Boeing 787 programs respectively) they can undercut Boeing.
You can read more about the business case for the A330neo here.
Airbus approached the market with two different versions of the A330neo.
What are the two variants?
As there were two versions of the original A330, the A330-200, and A330-300, Airbus proposed two versions of the A330neo.
- The A330-800neo 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.
As we can see, one is designed for range and the other one for distance. Another advantage of the smaller aircraft is that it can land at smaller runways. In fact, it has one of the shortest runway requirements out of all the new generation aircraft (A350, 787, A330neo, 777X) and thus why it was chosen by Greenland Air.
Which aircraft has been more successful?
Before we dive into which is the better aircraft, we should also mention the massive difference of orders between the two types.
The A330-800neo has not sold well at all. So far, there have only been 14 orders for the aircraft compared to 323 orders for the bigger A330-900neo. One possible reason for this discrepancy is that the A330-900neo can carry more passengers and airlines don’t really need the range improvements of the -800neo.
Imagine if you will, that as an airline you already have the Boeing 777X or A350, or Boeing 747 or Airbus A380, you don’t need a smaller long-haul aircraft as you already have a flagship aircraft to perform these routes. Rather, you would want a cheap aircraft that you can load up with passengers and fly well under the range required.
And the range difference of around 1000 nautical miles is not really a huge difference when it comes to popular route, with the majority of routes in the world hovering around the 4,000 to 5,000 nautical mark.
What do you think? Which A330neo is best? Let us know in the comments.