WORLD ROUTES: Airbus Launches New A330 as it Looks at Market Opportunities

Airbus has announced a new lower weight variant of its versatile A330-300 wide-body aircraft that is optimised for use on domestic and regional routes in high growth markets with large populations and concentrated traffic flows. According to the manufacturer, the expectation is that China will be one of the most important markets for this new version of the aircraft and the reason why the product was formally launched at the recent Aviation Expo China (Beijing Airshow).

Compared to current A330-300 variants that are adapted to longer-range missions of up to 6,100 nautical miles (nm), the new A330-300 regional and domestic variant will be optimised to seat up to around 400 passengers on missions up to 3,000 nm and offer significant cost savings through a reduced operational weight of around 200 tonnes. The reduction in fuel burn per seat and maintenance costs will result in an overall cost reduction by up to 15 per cent compared with the today’s long-range A330-300 variants, claims the manufacturer.

“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. Operators of the new A330-300 variant will benefit from a proven, mature and reliable aircraft that brings relief to limited airspace, airport congestion and pilot shortage,” said Fabrice Bregier, president and chief executive officer, Airbus.

“We are announcing the new A330-300 lower weight variant today in China because here we see strong pent-up demand for efficient and reliable wide-body aircraft connecting mega cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou,” he added.

Alongside the performance and operating benefits for regional routes the new A330-300 variant will benefit from the latest A350 XWB and A380 technologies. These include cockpit functionalities such as dual head-up display and the latest navigational systems, while the cabin will feature slimline light-weight seats, high broadband wi-fi connectivity throughout, the newest In-Flight Entertainment allowing HD TV, LED lighting and full colour mood lighting.

Airbus sees a strong market for the new aircraft and this opportunity will allow it to extend the lifecycle of an airframe that will soon be surpassed by its own A350 XWB development. In fact the manufacturer sees an increasing demand for its widebodied portfolio and forecasts that widebody jetliners such as A350 XWB, A330 and very large A380 will account for some 60 per cent of the US$4.4 trillion market for 29,220 new passenger and freighter aircraft in expects to be built over the next two decades.

In its 2013 - 2032 Global Market Forecast (GMF) Airbus says the average size of aircraft has grown by approximately 25 per cent worldwide in the past 20 years, and it predicts this trend will continue because of air traffic growth and the constraints on aircraft movements at many hub airports.

According to John Leahy, chief operating officer – customers, Airbus, the European manufacturer is particularly well positioned to compete in the widebody market with its A330, A350 XWB and A380 families – which cover a wider market segment than offered by competitors. “The airline industry needs simplicity; it does not need ‘two of these,’ ‘four of these’ or ‘five of these,’ to cover the market,” Leahy explained at the formal launch of the annual GMF in London last month. “So we are very happy with the way we’re positioned today.”

According to Airbus’ latest Global Market Forecast, the acquisition of larger aircraft not only allows airlines to carry more passengers on a given flight, but also helps reduce fuel burn and cost per seat. In addition, airlines are up-gauging aircraft in their existing backlogs and adding more seats to cabin configurations.

Even in the single-aisle market segment – which represents 71 per cent of deliveries by unit numbers in Airbus’ GMF, with estimated requirements for 20,242 aircraft valued at US$1.80 trillion – the trend is toward larger jetliners with higher seating capacities, according to Leahy. In this segment, Airbus’ product line is the in-production A320ceo (current engine option) and next-generation A320neo (new engine option) families. “I remember when we had very strong demand for A319s, then it shifted to the larger capacity A320 version…and we’re now seeing very, very strong demand for [the longest fuselage] A321s,” he explained.

Airbus predicts air traffic will grow at 4.7 per cent annually in the next 20 years. Off the predicted market of 28,350 new passenger aircraft, some 10,400 will replace existing airliners with more efficient ones. With today’s fleet of 17,740 aircraft, it means that by 2032, the worldwide fleet will double to nearly 36,560 aircraft.

Economic growth, growing middle classes, affordability, ease of travel, urbanisation, tourism, and migration are some factors increasing connectivity between people and regions and how often they travel. Increasing urbanisation will lead to a doubling of mega cities from 42 today to 89 by 2032, says Airbus and it predicts that 99 per cent of the world’s long-haul traffic will be between or through these.

“By 2032, Asia-Pacific will lead the world in traffic overtaking Europe and North America. Today on average, a fifth of the population of the emerging markets take a flight annually and by 2032, this will swell to two thirds. The attraction of air travel means that passenger numbers will more than double from today’s 2.9 billion, to 6.7 billion by 2032, clearly demonstrating aviation’s essential role in economic growth,” explained Leahy.

Domestic flows are also set to rise strongly, according to Airbus, with domestic India growing at the fastest rate (nearly 10 per cent), followed by China and Brazil (seven per cent). Overall, with an above world average traffic growth rate of 5.5 per cent, Asia-Pacific will account for 36 per cent of all new passenger aircraft demand, followed by Europe (20 per cent) and North America (19 per cent).

In the Very Large aircraft market, dominated by the A380, there is a requirement for 1,334 passenger aircraft valued at US$519 billion. Of these, 47 per cent will be needed in the Asia-Pacific region, followed by the Middle East (26 per cent) and then Europe (16 per cent). Asia-Pacific’s requirement for the A380 is demonstrated by the region’s growth in middle classes which is set to quadruple in Asia-Pacific in 20 years, says Airbus.

In the Twin Aisle market, covered by amongst others the A350 XWB and the A330, Airbus’ GMF predicts a requirement for 6,779 aircraft valued at US$1.82 trillion. Of these, 48 per cent of deliveries will be in Asia Pacific, followed by Europe (15 per cent) and the Middle East (13 per cent). Meanwhile, the Single Aisle market represents 71 per cent of deliveries by unit numbers with a requirement for 20,242 aircraft valued at US$1.80 trillion. Asia-Pacific will require 34 per cent of deliveries followed by North America and Europe requiring 23 per cent each.

The global success of low cost carriers (LCC) especially in Europe, and increasingly in Asia, the Middle East and Africa is helping to open new markets and give access to the benefits of flight to first time flyers from these regions. By 2032, LCCs will have increased their traffic market share from today’s 17 per cent to 21 per cent, says the manufacturer.

Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen has travelled across the globe to report on developments in the aviation sector as airlines and airports have continued to evolve and…