Why Airbus Was Smart Building The A330neo

The Airbus A330neo program is a bit of a white elephant in the aviation world. Despite being a fantastic aircraft with lots of technological upgrades over its previous iteration (the A330), it’s not selling well. Yet building it was one of the smartest choices Airbus has ever made.

Why Airbus Was Smart Building The A330neo
The A330neo is a smart move by Airbus. Photo: Hi Fly

Why is the A330neo unsuccessful?

If you are unaware, the A330neo series (comprised of two different variants) has not yet been commercially successful for Airbus. There are two main reasons for this.

The first reason is that there is not much market demand for the type. The A330 series is still in its infancy with many of the type still under 10 years old and perfectly operational for airlines. This means that airlines are in no rush to swap out the aircraft

The second reason is that, because the A330 series was so successful, there is actually plenty of A330 aircraft available on the market second hand. Why buy an expensive A330neo when you can buy a relatively new A330-300 that roughly matches capacity and range (without the NEO improvements). With this in mind, the Airbus A330neo series seems like it won’t really get going in terms of sales until much later.

the a330neo
The specs for the A330-900 look pretty impressive on paper. Photo: Airbus

However, Airbus was still very clever to make it, because it gives airlines an alternative to the very successful Boeing 787. 

Boeing 787 vs Airbus A330neo

As an aircraft comparisons go, the Boeing 787 series easily seems to take on the Airbus A330neo and walk away victoriously (you can read about the differences here). Because its a white paper design and not a derivative of an existing aircraft like the A330, it can bring to the table new integrated technologies. Concepts like a carbon fiber fuselage, bigger windows (that dim without shutters) and better cabin pressurization.

These fresh ideas made the Boeing 787 incredibly popular and the type has gone on to receive over 1,485 orders and made Boeing open a 2nd production line just to complete the demand.

In fact, looking at the numbers and how many are set to be rolled out in service you might think that compared to the Airbus sales there is not a chance for the A330neo.

However, it is this very success that justifies the A330neo.

Why Airbus Was Smart Building The A330neo
The moment for the A330neo might be just around the corner. Photo: Hi Fly

Why is the Airbus A330neo a good match for the Boeing 787?

Because there are so many orders for the Boeing 787, this means there is a significant wait for the type, upwards to 4-6 years for any specific type of 787.

Thus, airlines who are looking to buy a Boeing 787 need to put their fleet upgrade plans on hold, or hope that another airline doesn’t step in to take advantage of any unique 787 opportunities until they get the type. Unless, of course, there was another manufacturer of an aircraft that could fit the same mission profile as the 787.

As there are so few orders for the Airbus A330neo, Airbus can pump out the aircraft way faster than any 787 order and airlines can be flying in 1-2 years as opposed to the many more with the 787. Plus, because the A330neo is a minor upgrade to the A330 series and didn’t involve years of fresh thinking and design, it is significantly cheaper.

According to figures, both the 787 and A330neo are priced around $300 million USD range, but because it only cost Airbus $2 billion USD compared to the Boeing 787 programs cost of $32 billion USD, Airbus has incredibly wiggle room to beat Boeing off in price.

With the A330neo being quicker to build and cheaper, it has been very tempting for some airlines and will continue to steal some orders from Boeing for years to come.

What do you think? Which aircraft do you think is better? Let us know in the comments.

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