Airbus may be embracing the idea of creating an A330NEO offering for customers and it would appear to have some acceptance from some customers. To date, Airbus’ official approach has been to discount the A330 and show it as a cost conscious solution for airlines when balanced against the Boeing 787 offerings.
While airlines such as Delta seem to embrace the idea, one wonders if the investment in an re-engined widebody really is wise at this point. Airbus doesn’t have the answer to the 787 and it appears the A350-800 won’t be a future answer either. A lower cost development of an A330NEO would appear to offering something that slots in between the A321 and the A350.
I honestly do not think so.
The 787 clearly was the right size in the -8 variant as many, many airlines adopted this aircraft right from the beginning. The -9 variant is similarly widely accepted. Those two, together, are what Airbus has to compete against with the A330 or an A330NEO. In some missions, it may do OK but it won’t be the long term answer that an investment in a widebody asks for.
It would be foolish for Delta to drive a multi-billion dollar investment in an aircraft that Boeing has a better and just as tested answer for when such an airplane would be available.
It’s become clear that a certain generation of airliners are nearing their end now. The 767/757 is clearly on a rapid decline with passenger airlines and the A330 will begin that decline shortly. It’s not a new airliner and the A350 series should have been slotted to replace it better.
Instead, Airbus made the mistake of Bigger is Better. It’s made that mistake twice now. Upgauging its offerings made the -800 less attractive to airlines because of performance, not because it was the wrong size. The truth is that Airbus needed an range that spanned probably 4 aircraft and that’s hard to do.
In the competitive lineup, Airbus needed:
- A350-700 | 787-8
- A350-800 | 787-9
- A350-900 | 787-10
- A350-1000 | 777-200ER
- A350-1100 | 777-300ER
There is no -700 or -1100 and the -800 is a bit heavy for the mission and no one wants it. That leaves Airbus with (2) attractive medium sized widebody aircraft for customers and the A380.
That isn’t enough. The A330 could be stop gap but it has to compete against a much more modern, efficient product lineup that Boeing will offer. Look at Boeing’s potential now and over the next 10 years:
- 787-10 / 777-200ER/LR
- 777-300ER / 777-8
Boeing wins. It’s got the right sized aircraft with the right efficiency for a 20+ year investment that ranges the entire sweet spot for widebody aircraft. Even the “older” 777 models in that line-up purportedly “beat” the corresponding A350 models on the “total” package of performance. At worst, they hold their own against the A350 and that’s still pretty good.
Airbus needed 2 widebody families. It has one and I think cobbling together a stop-gap measure for one of those in a A330NEO model is unwise. The widebody technologies are here and they are useful now. To not use them in an airliner would be folly, in my opinion. They are maturing every day in the 787-A350-777 developments being done and that means that airlines in general will want those technologies rather than designs that date back to the late 1980′s.