A330 comparable competitor to 787: Airbus

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Airbus stands by its claims that on a total operating cost basis its A330-300 is a comparable competitor to the Boeing 787-9, following comments by chief commercial officer John Leahy earlier in July.

Comparing the two aircraft based on direct operating costs and the cost of ownership, the European airframer sees a 6.5% cost advantage for the A330, says Crawford Hamilton, head of twin aisle marketing at Airbus. This assumes an average sector length of 2,000nm, fuel at $3 per gallon and a configuration with 300 seats.

Airbus bases its calculations on what it anticipates the mature 787-9 - those being delivered from about 2016 onwards - to be, he says.

Leahy told Flightglobal on 23 July that recent comments to the French press regarding the maturity of the 787's systems was only a comparison to the A330, and not a view on the type as a whole.

"We can actually beat the economics of the 787 with the A330," he said.

Boeing, which uses the 787-8 in its comparisons, claims that the 787 burns 20% less fuel and has 1,000nm in additional range compared to the A330.

"The value of the 787's lower operating cost is overwhelming," says the Chicago-based airframer. "Even discounted, the A330 can't compete with the 787s."

Crawford says that Airbus sees the 787-9 as having an about 6% operating cost advantage over the A330-300. This gap is then closed when you add the cost of ownership, which includes higher lease and maintenance costs, he says.

"There is a cost to getting that 9% better fuel burn," says Chris Emerson, senior vice-president of marketing at Airbus, referring to what the airframer estimates is the performance of the 787-9 compared to the A330-300.

"It's newer engines, newer technology and a newer aircraft," he says.

Boeing counters, saying that throughout history aircraft that burn 10% more fuel then their competitors are "driven to economic obsolescence", citing the competition between the Airbus A340 and Boeing 777.