Airbus has yet to put a re-engined A330 concept to airlines but is working towards an aircraft which could match the cash operating costs of the Boeing 787-9 with the same number of seats.
Chief operating officer for customers John Leahy acknowledges that, “if we were to do it”, the aircraft – unofficially dubbed the A330neo – would have around 1,000nm less range but feature similar fuel burn, wider seats and, crucially, a “substantially lower” capital cost.
“We believe that would put a very big dent in 787 sales,” he said, speaking during the IATA annual meeting in Doha, adding that the specifications would be guaranteed to carriers and that the type would be “an unbeatable aeroplane in that category”.
The airframer has not given much detail about its internal re-engining study but Leahy suggests an A330neo “could be very similar” to the original A350 which was dropped in favour of the A350 XWB family.
“We haven’t shown the airlines the A330neo because we haven’t launched it,” he says. Airbus says the A330 is a strong brand but Leahy declines to indicate whether a re-engined aircraft would retain the A330 designation or be marketed under a new name.
Leahy dismisses any suggestion that Airbus is vulnerable in the 250-seat sector, claiming the 787-8 is “not selling well at all”.
“We said it was too small,” he says. Airbus opted for a scaled-up family in the A350 XWB, but has stopped promoting its own smallest member – the 276-seat A350-800 – in favour of converting customers to the larger -900.
Leahy is adamant that the airframer is not ditching the A350-800, however, and prefers to talk of its development being “rescheduled” – although the timeframe for its emergence is “up to the market”.
While Rolls-Royce remains the only powerplant manufacturer for the A350, with the Trent XWB, Airbus has not confirmed whether an A330neo would have a sole-sourced engine.