Airbus has formally launched a lower-weight variant of the A330-300 aircraft at the Aviation Expo in Beijing.
Aimed at offering a solution in markets with large populations and fast-growing, concentrated air traffic, the jet will have a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 200t, compared with the standard 235t.
The aircraft, which Airbus is calling the regional and domestic variant, will have a range of 3,000nm (5,550km), compared with the 6,100nm range of its current version. Its engines will also be de-rated.
It will be able to seat some 356 passengers, where some 56 seats will be added by cutting down on galley and crew rest areas.
"We are announcing the new A330-300 lower-weight variant today in China, because here, we see strong pent-up demand for efficient, reliable wide-body aircraft on domestic routes," says Airbus chief executive Fabrice Brégier.
Airbus China president Eric Chen explains that the shortage of pilots, congestion at airports and growth in air traffic in China means the lower-weight A330 will provide a solution, carrying twice the number of passengers compared with a single-aisle aircraft.
Last week Flightglobal Pro reported Chen saying that the lower-weight A330 will "definitely" be suited for Chinese carriers.
However, the airframer has yet to secure a firm order for the variant, but says that it has seen strong interest from Chinese airlines and aims to have a launch customer from the country by early 2014. Over the next five to 10 years it expects to sell "not less than a few hundred[s]" of the variant.
By 2015, the aircraft should enter into service.
Besides the Chinese market, the aircraft will also be suited for use in India, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, says Brégier.
Airbus expects the lower-weight aircraft to bring an overall cost reduction of up to 15%. This will be possible because of lower maintenance costs and the increased number of seats.
There are 125 A330s in service in China, and Chinese carriers have firm commitments for 60 more.