Zhuhai airshow: Airbus gains A320 MOU while regional A330 needs explaining

The Zhuhai airshow has not brought the expected slew of announcements from Western aircraft manufacturers. Boeing announced an order for 80 737 MAX Monday but this was characteristically from a leasing company across the Chinese see, SBMC Capital of Tokio.

Airbus on the other hand has not been able to move the much talked about A330 regional to order yet, despite announcing it in China last year and enticing with an announcement for a Chinese completion center for the aircraft before the show. Flightglobal reports that the A330 regional needs further explaining, Chinese carriers seems hesitant to buy what Boeing pitches as “obsolete technology” in a weight variant that only could fly local missions.

Airbus China president Eric Chen explains that the 200t variant is not constrained to Chinese mainland and can fly any missions that its range would allow. He also points out that the weight variant is just that, a de-papered weight version that can be upped to whatever take off weight the customer wishes at a later date by paperwork changes (and perhaps some additional galley equipment). As for technology level, an aircraft shall be valued for its contribution to a carriers business says Chen, not by which years it says on its airworthiness certificate.

The smaller A320 did not disappoint reports Aviation Week, Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier could announce a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) for 100 A320 from state affiliated China Aircraft Leasing whereof 74 would be A320neo. The order, once confirmed, can help Chinese carriers with the aircraft demand for the 2016-2020 economic planning period. Chinese carriers have been slow to place the necessary early OEM orders for the period (needed due to the large backlogs), the lessor sees it can back-fill that demand when the carriers comes around to needing the aircraft.

Airbus also has explaining to do in other corners of the world, Emirates intend to start second round talks around A350 in the next months according to Reuters. The first round of 70 aircraft was cancelled after Emirates did not understand a specification change that Airbus undertook without consulting Emirates. This time Emirates will see the aircraft flying with neighbor Qatar Airways before agreeing to any specifications according to Emirates CEO Tim Clark.

17 Comments on “Zhuhai airshow: Airbus gains A320 MOU while regional A330 needs explaining

  1. I can see an opportunity for big regional twins only in very high capacity (350-400 pass /slot) + significant cargo (20t, LD3s) flights, narrowbodies can’t do in 2 flights.


    probably A333s 9 abreast. If MTOW (paper) remains 242t the aircraft have good (rest) value, later on as long haul machines / cargo converts. The large A330 wingspan /footprint is an airport issue.

  2. One of the big problems with replacing single aisle aircraft with medium widebodies for shorter routes is that when you take into account the increased in flight separation requirements (increasing time before the next aircraft can takeoff or land), increased gate footprint, turn time, increased capital cost per seat, and increased trip costs, it is hard to make the economic case for replacing 2 A32x frequencies with 1 A330.

    this is particularly true on short segments, where CASM is less of a factor. the cost/benefit can only pay off on the very densest of route segments.

    I would love to see an analysis of the break even curve at which it makes sense to replace multiple frequencies of a representative single aisle with a regional widebody.

    a single A330 costs more to buy than 2 A320s

    because the A330R is just a paperwork derivative, it is carrying around many tons of unnecessary metal. the OEW of an A330 is 263,700 lb, the OEW of 2 A320s is 187,800lb, so the A330 is hauling 75,900 lbs more structure to haul the same number of passengers as 2 A320s.

    • For China — using regional widebodies — it’s seemingly all about capacity:

      Mainland China’s 10 biggest domestic air routes connect Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou with each other and Shenzhen, Chengdu, Xiamen and Xian, according to 2012 data compiled by Amadeus. Widebodies are used on all of those routes except for the 800-km (500-mi.) link between Shanghai and Xiamen, on which the Boeing 757, the largest narrowbody, is often seen. The air force’s habit of allowing only incremental additions to commercially available airspace gives little hope that capacity on those routes can be greatly increased except by adding more widebodies.

      Boeing, lacking a modern widebody suitable for moderate ranges, is encouraging the airlines to bypass the congested airports as much as possible by offering direct flights to smaller destinations. The U.S. manufacturer also disputes that the A330-300, designed for a 242-metric-ton gross weight that hardly suits 2-hr. hops, is more economical than the 737. But economy is not the main issue for these big routes; the airlines just need more capacity.

      • right, but again, where is the threshold here?

        you can takeoff and land more A32x’s per hour than A330s, they take up significantly less gate space per aircraft, have faster turn times, lower capital, trip and fuel costs. at what level of congestion does the equation flip from “most cost effective” to “damn the torpedos, I need bigger planes regardless of cost.”

        also this points to the need for a truly ground up designed ~3000 mile twin aisle without all the extra structure required to support transcon ranges

        • Japan has done the same thing with 747s and now the 787s. Different infrastructure reasons but the same idea.

          How viable it really is (some now per Av Week) but long term?

          You also cut down on the number of pilots needed. 2 x 737s (grin) need 4 pilots though they are working on that!

          Do you have enough of the bigger gates and or does the unload of those gate allow the higher number of passenger through puts

          Also, does the higher tech shiny Aircraft (status) trump the old tech but supposedly reliable A330? (I say that as mechanics I talk to do not have a favorable view of the Airbus products)

          Does the paper- de paper and then repaper really work and does the range of a standard A330CEO or even CEO work out for the overall flow and plans needed, what is the residual value and is it worth it to have it stuck on a domestic short route? Beyond my pay grade (though seeing some decision I wonder if its past a lot of theirs as well)

          I would think buy used A330 cheap and use it for that, but as stated, what do I know?

          We will know if and when they do or do not order, stay tuned as always.

        • Again, this has little do with any “thresholds”. As was pointed out in the link to that AW&ST article — and by FF down-thread — in regard to the Chinese government’s restrictive measures on opening up more civilian airspace sectors:
          Quote: The air force’s habit of allowing only incremental additions to commercially available airspace gives little hope that capacity on those routes can be greatly increased except by adding more widebodies.</iZ

          • take china’s fairly unique issues out of the equation, I am more interested in the general case.

            on paper, to me, the A330R (or for that matter a 787-3) seems like a nonstarter on a cost basis due to the higher trip cost per passenger which is driven by all the factors I listed above, until you get to the point where the airport is slot saturated, which only a very few airports in the world are.

          • Well, China seems to be a big part of the equation in regard to maintaining a reasonable A330ceo production output through the completion of the transition to the A330neo; the discussion of which, BTW, was the one of two topics in the comment from Leeham News.

            As for a regional widebody in the general; why not go for an optimised twin-engined version of the A380 (i.e. by combining the wing (e.g. wing span < 65m) and MLG from the A350-1000 with an A380 fuselage using a unique and slightly wider centre wing box, but which would, among other things retain the nose gear and vertical tailplane etc.). Such an optimised A380-derived aircraft should use at least 3 passenger boarding bridges*, or preferably a ThyssenKrupp-type four passenger boarding bridge solution** that would reduce boarding times by a further 30 percent (e.g. page 7 in the link below).

            * http://www.math.washington.edu/~morrow/mcm/alex_evan_harkirat.pdf

            ** http://thyssenkrupp-elevator-espbb.com/recursos/doc/Download/46781_4545201012266.pdf

        • What is “significantly more” in this context. 120% versus 100% ?
          With twice the capacity per item, transport volume would be 60% versus 100%.
          Smaller buckets never move more water than big buckets.

          Compared to what airliners cost gate space is cheap.

          “Frequency” only makes sense if your customers can’t be bothered to wait a single minute. Everywhere else increasing transport granularity makes more sense.

  3. The big problem in China is the military who severely restrict airspace. I think I read somewhere they reserve about 70% and often close the civilian partc as well. The main airports continually experience delays, but the constraints are on flight paths, not airport capacity. Airlines have to upgauge their planes to grow.

    It perhaps shows the balance of power in China that the country’s leaders, who are no doubt aware of the issue, don’t dare tell the generals to be sensible.

  4. So China is already using many A330 domestically andthis would be a better version.. Other question if the cargo capacity could be used.

  5. What’s the market for a clean sheet purpose built short range widebody?
    52m code D wingspan, 8 abreast for 2 or 3 hour flights. No LD3, but new standard luggage containers would keep the fuselage a smaller diameter(5.3m) than the A300. By having the windows at the center of the fuselage, and the floor a few feet lower as the fuselage tapers down, the widest part of the circle is used for passengers as the cargo hold shrinks.

      • I’m talking in the neighborhood of 204″ outside, so an 18″ decrease from the A300. That is good decrease in weight, frontal area, and skin drag. 204″ would give 17″ seats and aisles, 2″ armrests, a double armrest in the center, maybe even a faric covered partition as wide and high as the seat would be something to increase comfort to lean against, and pschological privacy. Everyone has one shared armrest and one to themselves, which is more than the 787 or 777x offer.

        Similarly for a 2-2-2, their are1.5 armrests per seat, and no middle seats, so even with 17″ seats, the comfort level would in my opinion be better than 18″ seats in a 3-3. 2-2-2 with 17″ seats would yield a 13′-8″ fuselage outside, only 10″ more than the A320.

  6. IMO 2-2-2 would add weight/cost, with on the benefit side comfort and quicker turn times.

    I think adding an extra seat per row improves efficiency/ CASM considerably, enabling seatcounts above 250. It seems both Airbus and Boeing have been looking at this cross section in recent years.


    The big hesitation is, if you launch something like this, it opens the door for the competition to launch something using the same technology, but 3-3, shorter ranged, lighter, cheaper, more fuel efficient, grabbing 70% of the market..

    Launching something bigger and smaller at the same time to cover the complete segment sounds nice, if you are willing to believe it costs less then developing then two aircraft. It won’t IMO, if you want tow competitive aircraft.

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