Airbus remains convinced that it can compete effectively with the Boeing 7E7 in the medium-to-long range market with its A330-200, but admits that it has a long-term plan to develop a new "regional people-mover" for the high-capacity short-haul market.

"Ten years from now, we may be replacing the A300-600R with a new-generation regional people-mover," says Airbus chief commercial officer John Leahy. "The aircraft, which has the project name A30X, would be optimised for stage lengths of 1,000nm [1,850km]."

Leahy says it is likely that the new model would be launched "around the end of this decade, to enable an entry-into-service in 2014-15". He says that until then, Airbus will continue to compete in that market with the A300-600R, which he can sell "cheaply", and that a cockpit upgrade for the aircraft is being studied as an interim measure (Flight International, 7-13 October).

Leahy dismisses Boeing's proposal to compete in short-range markets with a cropped wing version of the 7E7. "It is hard to come up with something that can offer 10% cost savings on short stage lengths," he says, but he expects technologies emerging by the end of the decade will enable the A30X to offer such an advance.

Meanwhile, Leahy is unconvinced that engines being developed for the new Boeing will offer a significant advantage in overall cost savings. He says that fuel consumption is only part of the overall operating cost equation, and that Boeing's planned move to all-new, bleedless engines on the 7E7 "only lowers total costs by 2%".

Despite this, Leahy does not rule out a switch to a new engine on the A330-200 in the longer term to compete with the 7E7: "If the market wants it, then we'll fit the new engine," he says.

Source: Flight International