Neo boost from Asia

AirAsia will put the A330-900neo in service later next year, having recently bought another 34 examples to join the 66 it previously ordered. The airline’s first example of the re-engined widebody will be delivered next year.

Airbus has secured a large endorsement for the A330neo (new engine option) after the AirAsia Group signed a much-anticipated repeat order for the type. The purchase of 34 more A330-900neos for its AirAsia X long-haul unit takes to 100 the number of orders for the aircraft from the airline, which ordered 66 in 2014. Its first example will be delivered in Q4 2019.

With the previous order, and AirAsia X already an established A330 operator with 32 A330- 300s in service by August, it was thought a repeat order was likely. Earlier this year, however, AirAisa Group Chairman Tony Fernandes said the company was analysing the Boeing 787-9.

This cast doubts on the A330neo’s sales prospects, given its relatively sluggish recent sales; only 13 were ordered in 2017 and the type lost out to the 787-9 in some sales contests, most signiicantly with Hawaiian Airlines switching to the Dreamliner. Tellingly, during a recent investors’ brieing, Airbus Chief Commercial Oicer Eric Schulz spoke of “relief” the AirAsia X deal was inalised, admitting he was now “much less anxious” about the A330neo programme with the contract in the bag.

Schulz said Airbus had likely diluted the A330neo’s potential market by continuing to sell the A330ceo (classic engine option) to provide a bridge in production to the new generation. He acknowledged: “We probably created our own problem by selling so many A330ceos. We have saturated the market with a very young leet and that has impacted the need [for airlines] to change [to newer aircraft].”

Referring to the A330ceo’s popularity in recent years, Schulz noted airlines would “not introduce another ten or 12 neos” just after ordering A330ceos and putting them into service. He said: “These aircraft have a 12 to 20-year lifetime and you need to give the market time to digest and be able to catch up.”

By August, Airbus had sold 260 A330neos so far this year, with other recent orders coming from Uganda Airlines and an unidentiied customer. Mark Broadbent