Airbus believes its regional A330 is the best short-term solution to ease the main constraints in the China market.
Speaking to Flightglobal, Airbus China president Eric Chen said he did not see how China could “in a short while overcome" issues related to congestion at Chinese airports, air traffic control constraints, and a shortage of pilots.
“The regional A330 is not a miraculous solution but it’s definitely a solution to relieve the pressure,” he says.
Airbus launched the regional A330 at the Aviation Expo in Beijing last year, aiming the aircraft largely at the China market.
Chen says that he has since received “a lot of positive feedback” from discussions with customers about the variant, and believes that Chinese airlines will seriously consider it when they place new orders for jets under the 13th five-year plan covering 2016-2020.
He adds, however, that there has also been “some confusion” that the lower-weight variant means carriers are not able to operate the aircraft long-haul. Chen explains that a regional A330 would only involve “paper changes” and some adjustments to strengthen the aircraft’s landing gear. The cabin can also be reconfigured to remove some galleys and put in more seats.
He stresses that the aircraft will have “full flexibility” and that airlines can use it for mixed short-haul or medium-haul operations to increase utilisation. The lower weight will also bring savings in landing fees and navigation charges, he adds.
Chen says the aircraft can be made available in 2016.
In response to Boeing’s stand that Airbus is effectively pitching "old obsolete technology" to China with the regional A330, Chen says the key is not whether the product is old or new, but that it adds value.
“You’re not agreeing to buy a product because it’s new. What’s key is which product matches, more economically, the market requirements. Which matches the airline’s strategic development plan. Which product is most popular to customers and which product better serves the airline’s strategy,” says Chen.
“These are fundamental questions, it’s nothing to do with [whether the product is] new or old.”
Airbus is featuring its A330 prominently on banners and posters at the airshow. It has also brought its A380 to the show for both static and flying displays.