The A330 family was developed from Airbus's first aircraft, the A300-600, in parallel with the A340 four-engined variant and both were launched in June 1987, after receiving orders from various customers, .
Both aircraft families share common airframe components and incorporate fly-by-wire flight control technology as well as the six-display glass cockpit first introduced on the A320.
Conceived as a low-gross weight widebody for regional and medium-haul high density applications, the first A330-300 was handed over to Air Inter in January 1994, which operated most of its fleet on French domestic routes.
ICF SH&E’s principal appraiser Angus Mackay says early variants, produced between 1992 and 1998 with a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 212t (467,500lb) to 217t and a range profile between 3,900nm (7,215km) and 4,300nm, represent a somewhat mediocre “first half” and have proved less marketable.
This is because they have inferior value retention and secondary market prospects, according to SH&E, relative to the enhanced “second half” of A330-300s with "incrementally certificated MTOWs introduced over the intervening years".
As a consequence of the incremental weight improvements, the A330-300 has become a more popular choice in recent years with applications on intra-regional and long-haul markets, according to SH&E.
The A330 family was also Airbus's first aircraft to being offered with the choice of three engines: the General Electric CF6, the Pratt & Whitney PW4000, and the Rolls-Royce Trent 700.
The Trent 700 series is the market leader, powering 247 units out of the 425-aircraft fleet. The PW4000-100 equips 101 aircraft, while the CF6-80E1 powers 77 units.
Another 120 future deliveries are equipped with the Trent 700 series, while GE accounts for 29 new aircraft and P&W has 11 A330s. Engine manufacturers are battling for the engine selection on a further 38 aircraft.
The A330-300 with Trent 700 engines provides the greatest ease of “remarketability”, says Mackay. “The PW4000-100 series is preferred in Asia and the Americas with General Electric dominating in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.”
The A330 family has allowed Airbus to expand its market share in the widebody sector with airlines opting for the aircraft as replacement for less economical twin-aisles.
Collateral Verifications’ Gueric Dechavanne says the A330 has the advantage of not only being an "excellent aircraft" but also not having many "competing in-production aircraft" at present. “The delays on the 787 and the fact that the A350 will not be delivered until 2015, or later, have also helped maintain some of the demand for this aircraft due to many operators choosing the A330 to either complement such orders, or to be used as interim lift.”
He adds: “Even when the 787 and A350 enter into service, the A330 should continue to see a good long-term future as a passenger aircraft as we feel that this aircraft will serve as a great complement to an A350 fleet serving various shorter-range markets.”
Mackay says Airbus has had the "luxury" of time to improve its aircraft during an extended period of "exogenous shocks and global economic downturn". "Seemingly overshadowed by Boeing’s 787 aircraft, sales have risen with customers seeking interim lift as the 787 programme delays increased. True competition is most likely to come from the 300-seat 787-10, which is not yet launched and from fraternal rivalry in the Airbus A350-900."
He adds: "Airbus has been successful in differentiating the A330-300 from the A350 series."
IBA’s senior analyst Alice Gondry says Airbus has been very prudent with its strategy on the A330-300. "Its policy of gradually tweaking its weights and range capability means it has a highly flexible, competitive widebody product. It also continues to complement its A330-200 stablemate well," she says.
"Clearly Airbus has recognised that those earlier examples in the fleet are coming of age, and with newer specification A330s, plus future A350s and 787s serving as likely replacements, remarketing opportunities need to be widened."
Ascend expects the A330-300 to continue to be a major player in the high-capacity, medium-haul and also long-haul markets for the next 10- to 15-years. "This is notwithstanding the eventual introduction of the newer technology 787-9 and A350-900, which are both targeted at longer-range markets, but may eventually impinge on the A330-300 market," the appraisal firm says.
As of 27 November , the A330-300 orderbook stood at 624 units, of which 427 had been delivered. There are 418 aircraft in active service and nine stored, according to Flightglobal’s Ascend online database.
Only one ex-Malaysian Airlines A330-300, a 1994-vintage aircraft, has been retired from permanent operations. A second aircraft is to follow soon. Ascend expects more part-outs in the longer term, especially for non-high gross weight variants.
Ascend says about 38% of the fleet, or 161 A330-300s, are owned by a total of 33 operating leasing companies.
Availability is scarce although there are 12 aircraft being returned to leasing entities during December.
Scheduled lease expiries total 42 aircraft during the next five years.
Financing appetite for the A330-300 remains solid as evidenced on the last three deliveries. Transasia Airways financed its new delivery with local debt. Cathay Pacific raised financing from Crédit Agricole Corporate & Investment Bank in the form of a commercial debt facility, after closing two aircraft under Japanese operating lease financings earlier this year.
TUI travel closed financing on the first of two A330-300s for its French subsidiary Corsair with a commercial loan arranged by KfW IPEX-Bank. The French charter airline is replacing its 747 fleet.
Airbus has delivered 46 aircraft this year. European carriers have taken 25 units while another 21 aircraft were handed over to Asian carriers. In 2011, of a total of 43 deliveries, European carriers represented 12 aircraft, Asian carriers 22 units while eight aircraft were handed over in Africa and the Middle East. One unit was delivered to Latin America.
Airbus recorded 46 net orders in 2010 and 66 net orders in 2011. So far this year, the European manufacturer has sold 43 units with 31 aircraft to Asian carriers Philippine Airlines and Garuda Indonesia.
The largest operator is Cathay Pacific with 39 aircraft in operation and another 14 on order.
The Asian market has driven sales for the A330-300 model during the past few years. Operational flexibility of the A330-300 is evidenced by its utilisation in Asia. AerCap's chief executive officer Aengus Kelly said on a third quarter earnings call that market conditions in Asia are favouring the use of widebody aircraft on relatively short-haul operations.
Asian carriers, according to him, are upgrading to small widebody aircraft instead of operating A320s or Boeing 737s on these routes.
"The A330-300 is being utilised effectively as a short-haul aircraft in Asia. The reason is that, in Asia, it's an emerging market. Infrastructure is limited. So airlines know they can fill the airplanes, but they just don't have enough airports and enough slots to satisfy the demand," he said.
According to Kelly, Asian carriers operate the aircraft on sectors with an average length of 750nm to 1,750nm.
The Airbus-family model has eclipsed its natural competitor, the 777-200, says Mackay.
"It meets the most mission profiles of the more capable 777-200ER and it is also considered a good replacement candidate for the A340-300 in a period of high fuel prices. It will likely benefit from the extension of ETOPS limits giving access to many new routes," says Mackay.
Fleet concentration could be a concern, especially in the longer-term, when direct replacement will be introduced to the market. About 60% of the A330-300 fleet is in Asia-Pacific, according to Ascend.
Increases in MTOW
Airbus announced on 28 November plans to further hike the maximum take-off weight of the A330 to 242t. It also will offer a higher fuel capacity option for the larger A330-300 variant.
The manufacturer had previously disclosed plans to increase the aircraft take-off weight to 240t.
Airbus's latest enhancements will extend the range of the A330-300 by 500nm over the 235t model, and by 350nm for the 238t A330-200 at full passenger load.
Airbus hopes the improvements will extend the A330-300's range to 6,100nm, enabling it to perform westbound flights from south-east Asia to Europe.
The new weight increase and fuel-capacity improvements will become available to carriers in 2015.
Airbus believes its proposed higher-weight and fuel-capacity modifications will enable it to claw back range advantage from the 777-200ER and offer a competitive alternative to the 787-9.
The A330-300 is built with the same centre tank structure as the longer-range A330-200 but is unused. Airbus will modify the aircraft on the production line by sealing the centre section, making the volume available for fuel transport.
It will also install associated pumps as well as the inerting system required by US and European regulators.
The manufacturer claims this will raise the proportion of network coverage from 85% to 94% of the 777-200ER's. Boeing gives the 777-200ER's range as 7,725nm.
But Airbus claims the cash operating cost per seat of the Boeing will be 17% higher, assuming a baseline of 300 seats for the A330-300 and 302 seats for the 777-200ER.
It also suggests that while the 787-9's cash costs would be lower its direct operating cost per seat will be 7% higher than the 242t A330-300's. Boeing gives the range of the 787-9 at 8,000-8,500nm.
Passenger to freighter conversions
Earlier this year, Airbus announced plans for an A330 passenger to freighter programme with ST Aerospace. The European manufacturer will offer both versions, the A330-200P2F and the A330-300P2F, with the latter to come first in 2016. Airbus estimates the market demand for the conversions at 900 units during the next 20 years.
The A330-300P2F variant will have a payload of 60-61t with the range of 2,200-3,600nm depending on the MTOW.
Ascend says conversion should be a sensible replacement for the A300-600F models.
Values and lease rates
Flightglobal understands that five- to seven-year-old models can lease in the $580,000 to $650,000 a month range, while top of the range units attract lease rates in the $850,000 to $900,000 a month. At the lower end, low gross weight aircraft lease in the $250,000 to $300,000 a month, depending on the lease duration.
Appraisers differ by $6 million on a new delivery powered by Trent 772B-60 engines with a 233t MTOW. SH&E says the aircraft has a value of $95.4 million. Ascend has a value of $99.3 million for the unit, while Collateral Verifications values the aircraft at $99.1 million and IBA Group says $98.8 million. MBA believes the current market value for that vintage is $101.7 million.
MBA says values and lease rates for the A330-300, built after 1999, are holding well. “Continued improvements, including plans for higher gross weight variants bode well for continued high values. The A350 and the Boeing 787 are not yet hurting the market values for the A330.”
Ascend says market values of the original A330-300 model - representing lower weight models and build years through 1998, last decreased by 4% at the start of the second quarter of this year, but have remained stable since.
A 1994-vintage aircraft has a $20 million current market value, says IBA Group. Collateral Verifications values the unit at $21.7 million, while Ascend values the aircraft at $23 million and ICF SH&E quotes a $23.4 million current market value. MBA is the highest of the appraisers at $30.7 million.
On a 1998-vintage aircraft SH&E and MBA have appraised values of $36.1 million and $37.2 million, respectively. IBA group is the lowest appraiser with $33 million while Collateral Verifications has a $40.9 million current market value. Ascend is the lowest of the appraisers with a value of $29.4 million.
A 10-year old aircraft is valued at $50 million by IBA Group, $51.2 million by SH&E and $51.6 million for Ascend. MBA has a $53.3 million current market value. Collateral Verifications values the aircraft at $68.7 million.
Ascend says a 2006-vintage has a $64 million current market value. SH&E values the aircraft at $67 million and MBA at $68.4 million. IBA has a value of $66 million. Collateral Verifications has a $70.4 million current market value.
The appraisers are in agreement on a 2010-vintage aircraft. SH&E has an $85.8 million current market value, while Ascend values the unit at $84.3 million. MBA says the two-year old aircraft is valued at $87.6 million, while IBA has $86 million. Collateral Verifications is the lowest at $82.5 million.
In terms of values, Collateral Verifications, MBA and ICF SH&E do not differentiate the latest production variants of the PW4168 and the CF6-80E1A4 engines.
IBA sees the PW4168 powered examples at a discount of $1 million. The CF6-80E1A4 powered examples would attract a discount of $500,000 to aircraft values, whilst the CF6-80E1A3 is equivalent to the Trent 772B-60, says IBA.
During the third quarter, Ascend recorded a total of 10 dry-leases, including eight lease agreements for aircraft on order and two straight leases.
Gondry says there has been some secondary market activity with Pakistan’s Shaheen Air recently accepting its first example.
She also notes there is a wide value range for the Airbus A330-300s "as not only is there a large age range to consider, but also a gradual increase in take-off weights and general ability of the newer aircraft."
In terms of lease rates a new aircraft would lease between $710,000 and $850,000 a month for SH&E. MBA says the lease range is between $770,000 and $870,000 a month. IBA Group believes the monthly lease rate is $895,000 while Collateral Verifications is the highest with $900,000 a month. Ascend has a montly lease rate of $890,000.
Collateral Verifications see signs of "continued stability and improvements" in lease rentals which should lead to stronger aircraft values during the next 12-18 months. "Over the course of the last 12 months, Collateral Verifications has seen values remain somewhat stable for the type with a drop in value of less than 5% or so for younger vintages of the type, which can be attributed to normal depreciation. Lease rentals also remained stable with a slight drop of less than 5% for the older aircraft, during the same timeframe."
Ascend has a $320,000 monthly lease rate for a 1994-vintage aircraf. IBA Group believes the lease rate is $250,000 a month while Collateral Verifications has $300,000. MBA says the lease range is between $340,000 and $400,000 a month while ICF SH&E has $205,000 and $325,000 a month.
A 1998-vintage is expected to lease between $315,000 and $445,000 a month for SH&E. MBA says the lease range is between $380,000 and $420,000 a month. IBA Group has a $380,000 monthly lease rate. Collateral Verifications has a $410,000 monthly lease rate while Ascend anticipates $360,000 a month.
A 10-year old vintage is expected to lease between $425,000 and $550,000 a month for SH&E and between $490,000 and $540,000 a month for MBA. IBA Group says the lease rate is $500,000 a month, Ascend has a rate of $520,000 while Collateral Verifications is the highest at $550,000.
A 2006-vintage aircraft is expected to lease between $535,000 and $655,000 a month for SH&E. MBA says the lease range is between $565,000 and $650,000 a month. Ascend says the monthly lease rate is $615,000 while IBA Group has $625,000 a month. Collateral Verifications has a $690,000 monthly lease rate.
A two-year old aircraft monthly lease rate is $800,000 for IBA Group, $830,000 for Collateral Verifications, and Ascend is the lowest appraiser of the three with a rate of $765,000. MBA says the lease range is between $720,000 and $800,000 a month, while SH&E’s range is between $645,000 and $770,000 a month.