Plans by Uganda to restore its flag carrier airline could mean that Airbus finally has a customer on the hook once again for its notoriously unpopular A330-800neo aircraft. Until recently, Hawaiian Airlines was the only customer for the difficult-to-unload plane, but the U.S. carrier canceled its order in favor of Boeing’s 787-900 Dreamliner.
In February of this year, The Points Guy declared in a headline, “Airbus is building an airplane no one wants.” Since then, the only customer for the Airbus A330-800neo, Hawaiian Airlines, canceled its order for the unpopular passenger jet in favor of Boeing’s latest generation of Dreamliner.
“The Dreamliner combines excellent comfort for our guests with fantastic operational performance and will allow us to continue modernizing our fleet into the next decade,” Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram explained in a statement announcing the airline’s stunning about-face in ditching Airbus for Boeing. “It has more seating capacity than Hawaiian’s current wide-body fleet, which will allow us to further build upon our successful growth in Asia.”
As the first A330-800neos rolled off the assembly line, Hawaiian’s surprise move left the European aircraft manufacturer without any customers at all for its brand new aircraft. Now, according to The Independent, Airbus has found a new taker for the 800neo series aircraft in an unlikely place – a rebooted Uganda Airlines.
The flag carrier blinked out of existence in 2005, but bold plans to relaunch the airline rely heavily on new Airbus planes including the A330-800 New Engine Option (neo). While the A330-800 has a longer range than its more popular A330-900 sibling, the smaller 800 series plane seats substantially fewer passengers than the 900 series aircraft.
According to industry analysts, airlines including Hawaiian have been dissuaded from taking delivery of the 800 series A330neo for fear that the aircraft will become orphaned should the manufacturer decide to end production due to notoriously poor sales. An orphaned aircraft could potentially make the aircraft more expensive to maintain and find parts for. Airbus officials, however, point out that “the A330-800 and A330-900 share 99 percent commonality.”