By Leeham Co EU
We’ve seen it for decades: the War of Words between Airbus and Boeing around their competing aircraft. It hasn’t taken long for the WOW to emerge over the prospective A330neo. Only a few months ago, Boeing was muted in its assessment about the NEO and its response. No longer.
For the 200- to 300-seat segment the WOW warning was raised Sunday at Doha, Qatar, in advance of the IATA Annual General Meeting, and no doubt it will stay aloft until this year’s Farnborough Air Show, where the formal launch of the A330neo is expected (as if anyone is doubting after Sunday).
As Aviation Week reports from the eve of the IATA AGM, John Leahy, Airbus’ chief operating office-customers, threw down the gauntlet by claiming an A330neo economics would be “unbeatable” and its “cash operating cost would equal 787-9.” Boeings counterpart John Wojick countered “at no price can it compete with the 787-10”.
Of course, that’s not what Leahy claimed. Comparisons have been between the A330-300 and 787-9, not the 787-10.
What it is all about
After our New Year’s analysis showed that there was a real case for an A330neo (A330neo prospect gains traction) we spent a further four months on the case, digging deeper and deeper. The result was put in our report The Business Case about the A330neo, a 60-page study which took a deep dive into the economics of the A330neo vs the A330 Classic and the Boeing 787-8/9. We did not examine the neo vs the 787-10 because these are different category airplanes, as Boeing’s Wojick should know full well.
In an apples-to-apples comparison, we found the A330neo significantly narrows, but does not entirely close, the operating cost gap between the A330 Classic and Boeing’s new airplane. Airbus can close the gap and achieve an advantage, however, if it lowers the price of the A330neo to a level the 787 can‘t give. This is central to Leahy’s argument, which is used for the A330 Classic but achieved only with the most favorable assumptions for the Airbus airplane
Payload: Equalizing payload side is absolutely essential (this is the source of most of the OEM wranglings):
We therefore redo everything with our standardized rule-set which uses modern seats and pitches and with constant ratios of premium to economy seats for all aircraft. We also use equal allocation ratios of WCs, catering space, closet and stowage capacity.
With these normalized LOPAs (Layout Of Passenger Accommodations) we found the A330-300 to be within two seats of the 787-9 and more than 30 seats away from the 787-10 (no wonder an A330neo cannot compete with the 787-10; they are not in the same capacity class). Likewise the 787-8 is within eight seats the size of an A330-200 (the next competitor is 50 seats away). On the cargo side the picture was similar.
We also compared the base characteristics of the aircraft; aerodynamics, structures, systems and maintenance.
The available engines for the A330neo are derivatives of the 787 engines: The GEnx (a version of which is also on the 747-8) and the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 TEN. Aviation Week reports that RR is likely to obtain an exclusive supplier agreement—it currently has about a 75% market share of recent sales, but if Airbus is correct that the market potential is upwards of 1,000-1,200 neos (and we have our doubts), a dual sourcing may make sense. But our Market Intelligence suggests that RR will borrow technology from the Trent XWB to insert into the 1000 TEN, taking it a step beyond where GE can go with the GEnx. Therefore a RR-powered engine will be substantially improved before going on the neo.
We expect sharklets will be added to the A330neo. Other improvements: aerodynamics, new, lighter engine nacelles and potentially laminar flow, and further improvements on the maintenance side, does the tasks really need to be this close.
Our in-depth Study provides details of these summarized issues, detailed economics, prices at which the A330neo have to be sold and much more.