How competitive is A330neo? Part 3.

Discussion
The cost of operation for the A330-900 and the 787-9.

We now fly the aircraft over the typical average mission for this class of wide-bodies, the 3,500nm sector and discuss the different operating costs.

In the second part, we could see the fuel cost over typical long-haul routes, including the 3,500nm one, was 3% lower for the 787-9 on an airframe level. On a seat-mile cost basis, there is not much of a difference, as our normalized seating with a two-class cabin has the aircraft at 292 seats for the 787-9 and 294 seats for the A330-900.

Airbus claims they have introduced improved crew rests and less space consuming lavatories to increase the A330-900 seating with six to 10 seats over the A330-300. We have included the improved crew rest in our figures and we agree the new lavatories are good solutions, but they are not restricted to Airbus aircraft.

Slimline lavatories are also available for Boeing aircraft from different vendors. We, therefore, refrain from pitching one solution against the other. We use standard lavatories and seat pitches throughout, which in our view offers the best comparison between the aircraft. The per seat difference in fuel burn is therefore just below 3%.

Now to the other operating costs.

Crew costs

With similar size aircraft, one thinks the crew costs should be similar. Not quite. Crews in the US are paid per Block hour and the A330 family flies slower, so it takes more Block hours to complete a route.

The Flight crew cost statistics shows the A330-300 crews to be a bit below in pay than 787-9 crews, while Cabin crews are paid the same. The A330-900 is a more capable aircraft, however, especially in its 251t version. So we use the same Flight and Cabin crew costs for the comparison.

The longer flight time of the A330-900 then makes our typical mission 2.7% more costly at $16,350 instead of $15,790 for the 787-9.

Maintenance costs

The dominant maintenance cost for a long-range Widebody is the engine cost, with two-thirds of the total cost. The compared engines are identical, so no difference there, except the Trent 7000 is a bit lower rated at 72klbf than the 74.5klbf 787-9 Trent 1000-TEN. It might, therefore, stay on wing a bit longer than the 74.5klbf Trent 1000.

Airframe maintenance costs for the A330-900 is higher. It has recently lowered the maintenance costs by switching to an 800-hour base inspection cycle, but its aluminum airframe requires more inspections.

In total there are 7% lower maintenance costs for the mission for the 787-9 at $8,030 compared with the $8,700 for the A330-900.

Navigation, Landing and Handling fees

The US doesn’t charge Navigation fees for domestic traffic, but Widebody operations are International by nature. We will, therefore, use Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) based formulas for these fees. The heavier 787-9 costs $11,360 in fees for the route and the A330-900 $11,100, by it being 3% cheaper on a seat-mile basis.

Cash Operating Cost

The total Cash Operating Cost (COC) for flying the route with the A330-900 is $60,760 with fuel at $2.00 per US Gallon, whereas the 787-9 costs $58,970. This makes the 787-9 2.3% cheaper per seat mile on this typical route.

Direct Operating Cost

The main argument for launching the A330-900 was its development costs and production chain are paid for. Therefore, it can be sold at a lower net price and its capital costs can be lower.

We will now explore the difference needed in lease cost per month to even out the difference in operating costs we’ve seen. The difference in Cash Cost is $990, or 2.3% on a seat-mile basis.

With a typical monthly lease rate of $1.0m per month for the 787-9, the A330-900 shall be at $900k to match the Direct Operating Cost of the 787-9.

Summary

The A330-900 and 787-9 are close in operating costs. The differences there are can be compensated with a lower capital cost. An A330-900 lease rate $100k below the 787-9 per month is realistic, current market rates put the A330-900 even lower.

Yet the 787-9 has won several recent deals?

The 787-9 is the more capable aircraft. It flies routes 1,000nm longer than the A330-900.

But Boeing is also further than Airbus in building its Global Services business. With it, it can be aggressive with after sales services pricing. This is an effective way to convince an airline to go for the 787.

After sales services are high margin business for the OEMs. By taking a strategic and holistic view on the adoption of a 787 by an airline, focusing the lifecycle revenue rather than the sales revenue, Boeing has many ways to make the 787 a better deal for an airline than the A330neo from Airbus.

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