Airbus’s easy decision

This first appeared as a Comment in the 22 July issue of Flight International

As recently as last month’s media briefing in Toulouse, smokescreens were being laid. Airbus was pondering re-engining the A330, but in “no hurry” to decide. So the confirmation of the A330neo as almost the first announcement of this year’s Farnborough got the air show off to a flying start.
First orders and the predictable riposte from Boeing followed swiftly. Airbus super salesman John Leahy extolled the virtues of and “overwhelming demand” for the revamped twin-aisle as if launching it was the easiest decision his bosses had ever made. Seattle’s Randy Tinseth accused Airbus of resurrecting an abandoned, decade-old concept and said the A330neo was proof Toulouse’s A350 strategy had failed.
The A330neo will fill a void in the market. Whether it sells in the numbers Airbus hopes remains to be seen, but the fact that the cost of developing the original A330 has been amortised means Toulouse will be able to price the reborn widebody keenly. This will worry Boeing, as it pays back its own considerable bill for developing the Dreamliner.
Airbus had little choice but to launch the A330neo. With the A350-800 dead and A350-1000 looking fragile, the European company’s widebody strategy was in trouble. The A330neo is not a game-changing launch in the way the 787 was, but it will buy Airbus time and prove an irritant for its rival.

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