By Bjorn Fehrm
November 02, 2017, © Leeham Co.: Airbus A330neo flew its first test mission two weeks ago. The test aircraft was the bigger A330-900, the neo version of the A330-300. For the present A330, the sales and delivery of A330-300 (the 290-seater) and the A330-200 (the 246-seater) is almost even, 720 versus 650 (including 70 MRTT and Freighters for the -200). But sales of the -300 in recent years far outpaced the -200, for which sales virtually dried up.
For the A330neo version, the A330-800 is not selling at all. Six aircraft are on order for Hawaiian Airlines while 211 are ordered for the A330-900. Why?
We decided to use our performance model to understand why the smaller, longer range A330neo has fallen from grace.
The A330 was introduced as the A330-300 in 1994, with Air Inter as the first customer. The range for the first 212 tonnes generation was 4,000nm. It could not compete with the Boeing 767-300ER, which flew over 5000nm. The A330-300 could pass the Atlantic, but not much more.
It was the little sister to the long-range A340-300 (with over 7,000nm range and no ETOPS restrictions).
To better compete with Boeing’s 767, Airbus introduced the shorter, longer-range A330-200 1998. It could fly 240 passengers 6,400nm in its initial 230t version.
With the A330-300 limited to medium range routes, the A330-200 had good sales. It flew the missions of the A340 with 50 fewer passengers and at a lower cost. The A330-200 has been popular with the airlines until recent years, Figure 1.
A330-200 production had healthy levels until 2016, with about three aircraft per month. The 2017 production is still for 33 units, but it has a larger part of MRTT (Military tanker and utility transport) versions.
The following years the deliveries fall for the A330ceo and should cross over to the A330-800 from 2019. But there are no orders for the A330-800 version. Hawaiian Airlines have six on order, with planned deliveries 2019 and 2020.
Why has a variant which commanded 40% of total deliveries fallen to 3% in five years? Of course, the A330-300 and later -900 have increased capabilities. The A330-300 can now cover missions up to 5,600nm or 12 hours. But a 37% fall is not explained by the A330-300 going from 5,000nm to 5,600nm.
To understand more, we ran the A330-200, A330-300, A330-800, and A330-900 over the same 4,500nm mission. This is a typical trans-Atlantic flight, starting in West Europe and flying to the US Midwest.
All aircraft were equipped with our two-class Normalized cabins of A330-200 246 seats, A330-800 250 seats, A330-300 290 seats and A330-900 294 seats.
We used our standard rules of 5% enroute reserves, 30 minutes circling and 200nm alternate.
The A330-200 consumes 51.5t of fuel, the A330-800 44.9t, the A330-300 55.3t and the A330-900 49t. This makes for seat mile fuel differences of A330-200 116.5% (the -800 is datum), A330-300 at 106.1% and finally A330-900 at 91%.
Nine percent higher fuel burn per seat than A330-900 is a lot, but with Jet fuel at $1.75/US Gallon (or $70/Barrell), the higher fuel burn of the -800 cannot be the whole explanation.
When we look at the other costs making up Cash Operating Costs (COC) we find:
The similar block costs for everything except fuel means the A330-800 doesn’t have any smaller-scale advantages over A330-900.
The A330-800 aircraft mile fuel advantage is 7%, but with fuel at a low price, the difference is $1700 on a mission COC of $75,000, a 2.3% difference.
As the A330-900 approaches 7,000nm range with the up-and-coming 251t version, the air is getting thin for the A330-800. It doesn’t have any real cost advantages other than fuel cost on a mission basis. With today’s fuel prices, this isn’t worth much.
The A330-900 carries 50 more passengers and has a better residual value. The A330-800 has fallen into the trap of a non-loved variant. The used aircraft market will be difficult. Lessors won’t touch the type.
The variant is for those airlines that need the range (up to 7,800nm in a 251t variant) and that fly the type until it’s time for the scrap-yard.