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A330neo route-proving points hint at target customers

Airbus's route-proving network for the A330neo might indicate particular marketing targets for the airframer as it attempts to generate further interest in the re-engined twinjet.

Several points on the three-week route-proving tour are clearly intended to cover stations of major customers.

These include Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Reykjavik and Atlanta, respectively hubs for AirAsia X, Garuda Indonesia, Wow Air and Delta Air Lines.

But the inclusion of Hong Kong, Manila and Bangkok on the Asian route-proving exercise could signal additional marketing efforts.

Hong Kong's Cathay Dragon operates some of the oldest A330-300s still in service, including aircraft over 25 years of age.

Manila is a base for Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific. Philippine Airlines is preparing to receive its first A350, set to replace A340s, but the carrier is also an A330 operator, as is Cebu Pacific which uses its A330s in a high-density configuration.

Thai Airways is an A350 and A330 operator but Bangkok is also the base for NokScoot, which has considered the A330neo as a potential successor to its Boeing 777-200ERs.

Airbus declines to comment on specific customer discussions.

But Airbus head of A330 marketing Crawford Hamilton, speaking in Toulouse as the A330neo embarked on its route-proving flights, pointed out that older 777-200ERs, as well as 767s, were among the types Airbus views as targets for replacement with A330neos.

Hamilton says the A330 had a "bit of weird delivery profile", with relatively few aircraft delivered over the first few years after its introduction.

But the A330neo will enter service just as A330s begin to reach around 20 years of age, with large numbers reaching this threshold from 2019 onwards.

Airbus has 214 A330-900s on order including four assigned to an unidentified customer.

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