Airbus US CEO explains why Europe's answer to the Boeing 787 isn't selling

AirbusAn Airbus A330-900neo prototype flying at the 2018 Farnborough International Airshow.
  • The Airbus A330neo is Europe’s answer to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
  • Airbus Americas CEO Jeff Knittel believes the lower sales of the A330neo is due to a soft than normal widebody jet market as well as an unfavorable replacement cycle for older planes.
  • Knittle said he believes sales will pick up once the A330neo enters service.

The Airbus A330neo is Europe’s answer to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Instead of creating brand a new aircraft from scratch as Boeing did with the Dreamliner, Airbus decided to optimise the existing Airbus A330ceo or “current engine option” jet that has been around since the mid-1990s.

Airbus launched the updated A330neo or new engine option at the Farnborough Airshow in 2014. Since then, the A330neo has netted 224 orders from airlines around the world with Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia X as its largest customers with 66 on order. The A330neo’s only US airline customer is Delta with 25 orders on the books.

While 224 orders in four years are nothing to scoff at, the A330neo has lagged behind the rival Dreamliner in the sales department. The Boeing jet has taken more than 400 orders in the same period and has sold nearly 1,400 units since 2004.

According to Airbus America’s new CEO Jeff Knittel, the A330neo’s lack of sales can be attributed to a soft widebody jet market and the replacement cycle of existing airliners.

“The widebody market, in general, has been slower over the past year or two and some of that can be attributed to the replacement cycle,” Knittel told Business Insider at the 2018 Farnborough International Airshow.

The current generation Airbus A330ceo is still on sale and is one of the most popular widebody airliners in the world. As result, Knittel said, the A330 is still a “relatively young aircraft” in many operators’ fleets and have not hit their replacement cycle yet.

“When you have aeroplanes that are older, the analysis to flip them out and put in new aeroplanes is much easier and in most cases fairly obvious,” the former chief of executive of aeroplane leasing firm C2 Aviation Capital said. “But the A330ceo is a good aeroplane with good range and has been improved a lot over the past 10 years.”

This has led many potential buyers to hang on to their current fleet of very capable planes a little longer.

“As the replacement cycles come and as the A330neo enters peoples’ fleets, I think you will see sales accelerate on that aeroplane because they will see that (the neo) is a fundamentally improved aircraft over what was already a very good aircraft, to begin with,” Knittel said.

The A330neo features updated aerodynamics, fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, and the big brother A350’s AirSpace interior design.

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