A new shorter-range option for the Airbus A330-300 consists of cabin rearrangements for more seats, derated engines and lower gross weight certification, but no physical changes to the powerplant or airframe.

At all offered weights, the A330 will also get cockpit technology from the A350 and A380, including dual head-up displays and new navigation systems.

Returning to its roots as an aircraft with medium range, the lightweight A330-300 will be more competitive than the A350 and Boeing 787 on sectors of only moderate length, such as 2,000 nm. (3,700km), says Airbus President Fabrice Bregier, who also emphasizes the A330’s narrowbody-like despatch reliability of 99.4%.

With seating of “around 400 passengers” and the lower maintenance of lighter operation, per-seat costs will fall by 15%, says the company. Seating is increased in part by eliminating galley space that is unneeded on short flights.

The customer can choose its gross weight, from “a little under 200 tons to 206,207 tons,” says Bregier. The company gave two examples: 199 metric tons (439,000 lb.), offering a range of 2,650 nm., and 205 tons for 3,000 nm. Since the structure and engines are not being changed, operators can restore their lightweight A330-300s to a higher gross weight. The maximum currently available is 242 tons, offering 6,100 nm. range.

A prime market for the lightweight A330-300 option is China, where it could help relieve severe shortages of air traffic capacity and pilots. “This is what is requested by the Chinese authorities and Chinese airlines,” Bregier said at Aviation Expo China in Beijing. For several years, China’s busiest air route, the 670 nm. between Beijing and Shanghai, has been operated mainly by A330s capable of flying about eight times as far.

Airbus expects several orders in 6-12 months. The first delivery should be in late 2015 or early 2016, says Eric Chen, president of Airbus China. “The price will be very consistent with the rest of the family” of A330 versions, says Bregier.