Price and that’s about it.
It’s got more than the old A330 in the sense that every vehicle enjoys a new, modern engine. The A330 is positioned as being a still young aircraft when, in fact, it’s pretty old these days. The technology that the A330/A340 airplanes got was solidly from the 1980′s and wasn’t that innovative even then. Remember that it was designed to replace Airbus’ A300/A310 aircraft (partly) and designed to compete against the 767 and DC-10.
Airbus didn’t have its sights on the 777 which was a couple of years behind it in development. In fact, the 777 was more a response to the A330/A340 and MD-11.
So the point I would make is this: There is a reason why the 767 isn’t selling anymore. Same for the 757.
There was also reason why Airbus wanted to sell an A330 Tanker to the US Air Force: It would keep a production line running for a while.
If the A330NEO was as good as the 787, it wouldn’t be immediately advertised for considerably less money. And for certain, if that kind of performance was what all airlines were looking for, Airbus wouldn’t have been strong armed into making the A350. In fact, it’s notable that the original A350 was a lot more an A330NEO than anything else.
The A330NEO is a response to a few airlines who would like to have more A330 airplanes but with a little bit better price. Delta, for instance, wants some. A few other airlines will order them as well and if the A330NEO is done right, it might even be profitable for Airbus.
But it’s not a revolution. It’s barely an evolution. I strongly suspect it will be a 767-400 for Airbus which means that it will keep some customers happy and in the Airbus camp but let’s put away this talk that 1000 Airbus A330NEOs will be sold. Only 1100 A330 airplanes have been delivered to date so far.
This is a bridge airplane to keep some people happy for a while so Airbus can figure out what to do with its product line gaps. Presently, the A350 isn’t a 777 (new or old) and the smallest variant, the A350-800 is highly unattractive to customers because it offers no benefit over the A350-900. Airbus has nothing new to fill the gap between the A321NEO and the A350-900 and that’s a big gap.
So, for now, the A330NEO will fill that gap. Sort of. Kind of.