FARNBOROUGH England (Reuters) – Airbus announced a revamp of its twin-aisle A330 passenger jet on Monday, sharpening a contest with Boeing for up to $250 billion of orders at the core of the market as the start of the Farnborough Airshow fueled a debate about new technology.
The European planemaker’s decision to add new, more fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce engines to its best-selling long-haul jet comes as it tries to preserve market share against Boeing’s all-new 787 Dreamliner and amid disappointing sales of its own new A350-800 model.
The challenge facing new aviation technology was underscored on the eve of the Farnborough show, the world’s biggest aerospace industry gathering of the year, when Lockheed-Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter was pulled out of the opening day.
The warplane is grounded following an engine fire last month although Lockheed hopes it will still make its international debut at the event this week. Two initial partners in the program – Canada and Denmark – are weighing fresh orders.
The absence of the F-35 left Airbus to grab the limelight on day one of the July 14-20 show. The European planemaker’s chief executive, Fabrice Bregier, predicted up to 100 orders for the A330neo during the event.
The A330 has enjoyed a resurgence of sales helped by delays in deliveries of Boeing’s technically ambitious carbon-fiber 787 jet, but it is in need of a revamp to keep selling.
Analysts say that will also plug a potential future gap in the Airbus wide-body jet portfolio after poor sales of its A350-800 – the smallest of the next-generation A350 family and a model which looks set to be halted or suspended as a result.
The 250-300 seat market is the largest segment of the wide-body jet market by volume and represents 4,520 aircraft worth more than $1 trillion over the next 20 years, according to Boeing’s latest market forecast, published last week.
Airbus believes the new A330-800neo and A330-900neo models can achieve at least 1,000 of those orders, but Boeing says the market opportunity is closer to 400 planes and even then, only for a short period.
Still, the cheaper A330neo is expected to spark increased price competition.
“The A330neo could potentially offer the right mix of fuel-burn reduction and lower acquisition cost … Less clear is whether the economics and timing will be sufficient to sway customers from the 787 this time,” said Rob Morris, head of consultancy at Flightglobal Ascend, in a report being published at the air show… see more