Airbus will proceed with the A330neo jet, officially dubbed the A330-800neo and A330-900neo, as a next-generation upgrade to its best-selling A330 twin-aisle aircraft.
The French aviation company couldn't resist the lure of announcing the long-rumoured A330neo on the first day of the Farnborough Air Show, which happened to fall on the France's national Bastille Day of July 14th.
The first A330neo will be delivered to its as-yet-revealed launch customer towards the end of 2017.
The multibillion-dollar project will see the A330 fitted with larger more fuel-efficient engines and follows in the footsteps of the A320neo, which saw similar technology grafted onto the popular single-aisle jet.
The A330-800neo and A330-900neo will be upgraded versions of the A330-200 and A330-300, respectively, and will also boast extended flying range plus cabin improvements aimed at more efficient use of floor space.
In other words: more bums on seats.
The A330neo is tipped to pack between 252 and 306 seats depending on how many classes an airline fits, which is around 10 more than a similarly configured A330, although Airbus says those seats will still be a comfortable 18 inches wide.
Other mod cons will include LED mood lighting and "full connectivity" if an airline wants to add inflight Internet to the list of cost-extra options.
The new engines plus other aerodynamic tweaks are expected to reduce fuel consumption by 14% compared to the A330 'classic', Airbus says.
The official list prices – which no airline ever pays – come in at US$241.7 million (A$257.4 million) for the A330-800neo and US$275.6 million (A$293.3 million) for the A330-900neo.
The current A330 is Airbus' most popular twin-aisle aircraft, with some 1,000 of the medium-range jets carrying the colours of over 100 airlines including Qantas and Virgin Australia.
"Customers love (the A330)" said Tom Enders, Airbus Group CEO. "With our decision to re-engine the plane, we will keep the A330 flying high for many more years to come."
The A330neo will provide "an optimal solution for airlines around the world looking to minimise their fuel and operating costs while offering best-in-class comfort to their passengers" said Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President and CEO.
"We see strong market potential for the A330neo, and like its market-leading smaller sister, the A320neo, we are confident this new aircraft will be a success in the medium-haul segment."
However, only last month at the company's annual Airbus Innovation Days media conference, Airbus sought to damp down speculation on the A330neo.
While admitting that a souped-up engine swap would be "relatively straightforward", Airbus chief operating officer John Leahy admitted to concern over "possible cannibalisation" by the A330neo over sales of its parent A330 along with smaller versions of the A350.
"It is an interesting idea, we go back and forth on it" Leahy reflected, while executive vice president of strategy and marketing Kiran Rao added that "it's not a decision we will rush into.”
Earlier today Airbus also announced that the A350 would visit Sydney on August 5th as part of "a series of tests throughout the world in order to secure certification" of the advanced jet.
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