Yesterday Delta took delivery of its first of 35 A330neos. Delta was the launch customer for the A330-900 and the selection of this aircraft was seen as interesting given the relationship the airline has had with Boeing.
What is very interesting at this stage though is the fact that Delta has now deployed a second Airbus model that has the potential to disrupt competitors. The first was the A220, which Delta originally bought as the Bombardier CSeries. However, Boeing was annoyed with this decision and decided to take Bombardier to the ITC.
It was generally felt at the time that Boeing would win and that would be the end of the CSeries in the US. It turned out somewhat like that: The CSeries was not going to fly in the US. Bombardier did not recover from that bodyslam.
But Airbus made the best deal in the history of commercial aviation, acquiring the CSeries program and re-branding it as the A220. It was Delta that turned the ITC case against Boeing. Now Delta is getting its A220s and is going to disrupt its competitors in the ~110-seat segment with an aircraft that can fly almost anywhere in North America non-stop at much greater efficiencies than anything else in service in the US market. Bombardier did lose, but so did Boeing. Airbus won big and Delta got what it wanted.
With the A330neo Delta is acquiring an aircraft with state of the art economics and a range capability to cross the Pacific to key markets from its increasingly important Seattle hub. This aircraft helps Delta by replacing aging 767s at SeaTac. Delta will also add A330neos to European routes as more are delivered.
Like the A220, the A330neo is disruptive. Whereas the A220 is a clean-sheet design, the A330neo is a “redo” of Airbus’ best selling widebody. The A330neo has a lower capital cost than the 787 and offers competitive operating economics. For Delta, the A330neo is a low-risk tool to take on American and United (both using 787s) and probably beat them on overall costs. (It will be a year at least before we can verify this) Since airline competitive economics can be summed up as driving for the lowest costs, the A330neo delivers.
Bear in mind that for both Airbus and Boeing derivatives are going to be the major play for some time. The NMA may turn out to be less groundbreaking when it is defined and details are provided. The A330neo looks to be an excellent derivative that achieves state of the art economics at a highly competitive capital cost.