Airbus reported this morning that the A330-800 assembly has begun.
“Final assembly of the newest member of the A330neo Family, the A330-800, has started and is on track for the first flight planned in mid-2018.
The A330-800 complements the A330-900, the largest member of the A330neo Family. With its 242-tonne Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) as base variant, the A330-800 can operate routes of up to 7,500nm and with the recently launched 251-tonne MTOW variant the aircraft can operate ultra-long-range routes of up to 8,150nm. Together, the A330neo variants are part of the world’s most comprehensive twin-aisle, twin-engine aircraft family from 260 to over 360 seats which includes the A350 XWB Family.
The most visible new features of the A330neo wings are the specially developed curved wingtip Sharklets – which draw on A350 XWB technology, extending the wingspan to 64m, providing state of the art aerodynamic characteristics.
Airlines will benefit from 25% less fuel burn per seat compared to previous generation competitors, reduced maintenance costs and the A330’s market-leading 99.5% operational reliability. Passengers will enjoy the award-winning all new Airspace cabin inspired by the A350 XWB. On top of latest generation In-flight entertainment and connectivity, passengers can look forward to a new welcoming entrance area, spacious overhead bins, mood lighting and exceptionally quiet flights.
With close to 1,700 orders, the A330 is the most popular wide-body aircraft ever, having flown nearly 1,000,000 annual flights. Today, over 1,300 aircraft have been delivered to 117 customers worldwide on a wide range of routes, from domestic and regional flights to long range intercontinental services. Offering the lowest operating costs in its category, and thanks to continuous investments in latest innovations, the new generation A330neo will be the most profitable and best performing aircraft in its size category.”
Moving ahead with this program might be on time, but is there a market? Hawaiian placed an order in 2014 for six. Since then, crickets. What does the fleet data show that gives Airbus confidence in the A330-800?
For a start, the predecesor A330-200 program has been a success. As the data illustrates the percent of the fleet that is active since 2000 has averaged 97%. This suggests the A330-200 is an aircraft size that has a strong market demand. Airbus got this model right.
Next, why the slow orders for the A330-800? Perhaps the answer is simply that the current active fleet is young and still delivering the level of performance operators want. There may simply no urgency to jump on to delivery slots.
Where are the potential opportunities for the A330-800? Looking at the current active A330-200 fleet we can see there are certain markets that warrant attention for replacements. As of 2Q17, only 28 were parked with an average age of 10.9 years.
Will the A330-800 sell as many aircraft as the A330-200? There is a good argument that the answer is no. But Airbus could sell enough to warrant the development. Besides, looking at the current operators, there is no obvious replacement other than the A330-800.
These operators represent half the total fleet. The A330-200 offers the ability to deliver widebody loads over long hauls at low cost. The A330-800 will do more of the same; more payload (4%) and more range (3.5%). And accomplish this at 12-14% better economics than the older model.
While the A330-800 may not sell as well as the A330-200, it should offer many A330-200 customers the right combination of performance and costs. It is too soon to dismiss the A330-800.