Farnborough Airshow: Airbus unveils revamped A330 airliner

Story highlights

  • Airbus is launching the A330neo range, a revamped version of its successful A330 models
  • The company made the announcement at Farnborough International Airshow
  • Airbus' new wide-body planes will compete with Boeing's Dreamliner 787

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, the old adage goes.

Yet that's exactly what Airbus is doing to its successful A330 model in order to up its stakes in the skies.

Airbus will launch the A330neo range, a revamped version of A330 airliner, the company announced Monday at the 2014 Farnborough International Airshow held in England.

The new wide-body planes will compete with Boeing's Dreamliner 787.

"The A330 has been one of our most successful aircraft in the Airbus wide-body family," said Kiran Rao, Airbus' executive vice president of strategy and marketing.

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Airbus has sold more than 1,300 A330 airplanes to nearly 100 customers worldwide, making it one of the most successful aircraft in the wide-body category, Rao said.

"What we are doing is making this aircraft, which is already great, better," he said.

The newly launched A330-800neo and the A330-900neo (enhanced versions of the A330-200 and A330--300 models, respectively) will feature several new features, according to Airbus, not the least of which is a vast improvement in fuel efficiency.

With the help of new Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, an 800 kilograms reduction in weight of the aircraft, and a new aerodynamic design featuring a 64 meters wingspan and curved wingtips, the new airliner will see a 14% reduction in fuel consumption per seat.

"We enjoy very good sales of the A330, but we were listening to our customers. People were telling us, your aircraft is fantastic, but would be even more fantastic if you could achieve a better level of fuel burn," Fabrice Brégier, president and CEO of Airbus, told CNN.

But not everyone is convinced by Airbus' claims of better fuel efficiency. Boeing's marketing head, Randy Tinseth, said he found Airbus' estimate "extraordinarily optimistic," according to the Wall Street Journal.

Brégier also admitted that since the investment was not planned, the new model will increase Airbus' development costs through 2017.

He also said he anticipated the A330neo family would ultimately improve profits, and that he expects to sell at least 1,000 of the aircraft, which will be available for delivery by the end of 2017, during the week-long airshow.

Previous experience suggests that Brégier has a point.

Sales for Airbus' A320neo, a similarly updated version of their older, single-aisle A320 model, has been off the charts, with over 2,800 orders since it was launched in 2010, the company said.

The new models are appealing to airlines as they tend to be cheaper than completely new designs.

Still, the reduced cost, though attractive, is not the only feature likely to bring in new customers.

The new aircraft also come outfitted with updated controls in the cockpit, and a larger rest area for cabin crew.

Rao says that customers will be please with wider seats (18 inches in economy) and an updated in-flight entertainment system that will allow passengers to watch movies in 3D.

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