'Insulting' for Airbus to pitch lower-weight A330 to China: Boeing

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Boeing says it is "insulting" for its competitor to push the reduced-weight Airbus A330 to the China market as a solution for congestion at airports in the country.

Speaking to reporters in Hong Kong recently, Boeing's senior vice-president of sales and marketing for northeast Asia Ihssane Mounir had harsh words for Airbus.

“Frankly, and you can quote me on this, I find it insulting that a manufacturer would come in with old obsolete technology that burns 25-30% more fuel than their own A350, and 25-30% more fuel than our 787, that nobody is buying in bulk anymore. And they are telling them this is good for you. If it’s good for them, why aren’t they selling it somewhere else? Why is it just good for the Chinese?” he says.

Mounir was attacking Airbus for the lower-weight variant of the A330-300 which it launched at the Aviation Expo in Beijing this September. Airbus had marketed the aircraft, which will have a lower maximum take-off weight of 200t and a reduced range of 3,000nm, as a solution for China's shortage of pilots, congested airports and growth in air traffic.

"If you fill every seat on the A330, you're taking an airplane designed to fly 6,000 miles, 10 hours, and forcing it to do 1.5-2 hours. It doesn't make sense. You're carrying tens of thousands of kilos of structure that you don't need," says Mounir.

The solution to congestion, he says, should be better frequency and air traffic management. This means airlines should optimise their networks, change frequencies and also upgauge their aircraft.

“So instead of flying 737-700, go up to -800, and from -800, go up to the -900. Same thing with our competitor aircraft, if you’re flying A319, go up to A320 and A321,” he says.

“I’m not saying the market could not support a number of widebodies to relieve some of the trunk routes of their congestion. But it’s not to the tune of what these guys are saying. Frankly, I find it insulting,” he adds.

Airbus has not secured a firm order for the regional A330, but says it aims to have a launch customer from China by early 2014. Over the next five to 10 years, it expects to sell “not less than a few hundreds” of the variant. The aircraft will enter into service by 2015.

The airframer had also said that besides China, the aircraft will be suited for use in India, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. It is also expecting the aircraft to bring an overall cost reduction of up to 15% because of the lower maintenance costs and increased number of seats.

There are 125 A330s in service in China, with a further 60 on firm order.