The Airbus A330 is a bit of an odd aircraft. It is not as popular as the Airbus A320 series and its not as big as the Airbus A350. In fact, it finds itself right the middle of the Airbus family lineup.
The newest version, the A330neo, finds itself in very much the same place as its predecessors. Not entirely a small short-haul plane, but not a large long haul aircraft. Originally designed to compete against the 787 Dreamliner, Airbus has found the sales to be a little wanting. The A330neo-900 has only had 238 orders (with three deliveries) and the smaller -800 version with 8 orders… in total.
Thus, does the A330neo-900 find itself in the role as a sub-par A350? Or is it secretly a superior aircraft that will soon find its feet in the marketplace? Let us have a look to see how it compares to the A350.
Airbus A350 vs the A330neo
Because the A330neo-800 has not been very popular, we will only be looking at the -900 variant. Likewise, as the -900 version of the A350 is more popular (with 600 orders so far) than the larger -1000 aircraft, we will face both -900 variants back to back.
The A330neo-900 can carry 287 passengers on board in three classes, but 440 in a one-class all economy monstrosity. Comparatively, the larger A350-900 can carry 325 in a two-class configuration (The ultra-long-range version the A350, used to fly between Singapore and New York only has 173 seats (80J+93Y) and does not feature an economy cabin) but only 440 in an all-economy configuration.
This is a surprise because it means that the A330ne0-900 is equal to the A350-900 if used for a high-density economy format (perhaps for popular domestic routes or short haul), potentially even rivaling the future 797 from Boeing. For comparison’s sake, the A330neo-900 is only 3 meters shorter than the A350-900. We at Simple Flying, however, don’t want to encourage airlines to consider these cattle class possibilities!
Ah but surely one of these two aircraft has a better range? The A330neo-900 has a range of 7,200nmi (13,334km), whilst the A350 has a range of 8,100 nmi (15,000 km). At first glance, it looks like the A350 has the better range, but if we were to compare the A350-900 to the A330-800 (with a range of 8,150 nmi (15,094 km)) we see that A330 could be comparable.
But naturally, the A350 has been selected by Singapore for their ultra-long-range route and may be selected by Qantas for operation sunset.
Speaking of range and distance, the A350 is also slight faster than the A330 at cruise. This might not be much of a difference on short haul routes, but for longer flights the A350 would get slightly ahead of time.
Another factor that should be considered is what it is actually like to fly on these aircraft. The Airbus A350 seats 9 passengers abreast in economy (in a 3-3-3 configuration) whilst the A330neo, being slightly thinner sits passengers in a 2-4-2 configuration. Depending on what you prefer, each plane configuration can greatly impact how comfortable it is to fly. I personally love the 2-4-2 configuration because it means couple passengers can travel together and have that small amount of privacy.
Construction and Cost
Another factor in this rivalry is the difference in cost and materials. The A330neo is an updated version of the Airbus A330 series and is built out of aluminum. The A350 is built from scratch with a 50% composite materials, meaning a lighter but more expensive aircraft. A lighter aircraft means fewer fuel costs and more savings over time. Their costs are as follows:
- A350-900: US$317.4 million
- A330neo-900: US$296.4 million
If you were an airline, which would you choose? Knowing that these aircraft are essentially the same in quite a few ways, it can be quite tempting to go for the cheaper offer (but keep in mind, real aircraft prices are generally 50% cheaper) over the quality of the A350.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.