Airbus Revamps A330 for Domestic Markets

Airbus A330 2

Let’s consider China’s teeming domestic market. Don’t expect a zillion sports-car-like aircraft from Bombardier and Embraer. It takes a mighty swing to clear the bases on loaded routes like Beijing to Shanghai, which has grown more than 50 percent in the last 10 years. Three-quarters of the flights are wide-body jets. And the aircraft of choice is the twin-engine Airbus A330.

Intuiting what is unfolding, Airbus last week announced a new lower weight variant of the A330.

“The new lower weight A330-300 variant specially designed for regional and domestic use is Airbus’ solution for markets with large populations and fast growing, concentrated air traffic flows,” Fabrice Bregier, President and CEO of Airbus, said at the Beijing Airshow last week.

“The new A330-300 will be optimized to seat up to around 400 passengers in Airbus’ best in class 18 inches wide economy seat comfort on missions up to 3,000 nautical miles and offer significant cost savings,” Bregier said.

(Eighteen inches! Ouch!)

Authorities regulating airspace in China are demanding wide-body aircraft on all major routes. China has the largest number of A330s; 119 total, most of them -200s.

Weight reductions in the new variant come from cabin changes like seating and reduced galleys. They’ve dropped about 35 tons from the baseline 235-ton A330.

Airbus says the revised A330 cabin features “light-weight seats, high broadband Wi-Fi connectivity throughout, the newest In-Flight Entertainment allowing HD TV, LED lighting and full color mood lighting.”

Current A330s fly up to 6,100 nautical miles. The lightweight variant is expected to reduce maintenance costs and fuel burn by 15 percent.

The new A330s also will duplicate the latest avionics and navigational systems that are in the genes of the new A350s and A380s.

From Hong Kong and Singapore, the lower-weight A330s would reach most of Asia. Cathay Pacific and Dragonair are the world’s largest operators of the A330 (56 total). Some are used on long-haul flights to Australia (beyond the lower-weight A330’s range), but many fly regional routes.

And Boeing? They’ve been trying to go wing-to-wing with Airbus in the large-variant 737-900.

The Tarmac’s View: Airbus has a winner with the lightweight A330. Increasing passenger capacity in the slippage between restricted airspace and finite airport gates is the calculus where airlines operate. Airbus’s revamped A330 will prove popular throughout Asia, where growth on narrow-body low-cost airliners has been the norm. Increasing wide-body flights offers expansion within the limitations. Even landing fees are reduced given they usually factor in the weight of aircraft.

Note: Much of the data for this article came from the Centre for Aviation.

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Comments (Showing 1 of 1)

  • colmc at 6:10pm October 07, 2013

    “(Eighteen inches! Ouch!)”

    That’s width, not pitch. And it’s pretty good/standard for coach 😉 So not so much of an ouch.

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