thoughts on the A330

From:         chuanga@iia2.org (H Andrew Chuang)
Date:         23 Aug 95 23:38:30 
Organization: International Internet Association.
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Since the launch of the B777, the A330 has not been doing very well.  The
A330 program has not secured any new orders for quite a while.  In the
past few years, only Aer Lingus and Hong Kong's DragonAir have been added
to the A330 customer list.  However, Aer Lingus' A330s are leased from
Air Inter (the launch customer) which has also deferred many of its orders.
Similarly, DragonAir's A330 was originally ordered by Cathay Pacific.  I
believe in TWA's first bankruptcy filing, TWA's A330 order was halved.
More recently, the financially-troubled Garuda Indonesian Airways have
cancelled (or will cancel) three of the nine planes ordered.

During the Paris Air Show, orders from four Asian airlines (Cathay Pacific,
Thai International, Korean Air, and All Nippon) helped the launching of
the stretched B777.  I would like to point out that three of the
aforementioned airlines (other than ANA) are (or will be) A330 operators.
If memory serves, Airbus proposed the A330-400X, a stretched A330, around
1992.  One must ask the question why these airlines are not interested in
the A330-400X!  Furthermore, the engine companies (P&W, GE, and Rolls)
seem to be more readily to commit to developing engines for the B777 than
the A330.  None of them has ever clearly defined an engine for the -400X.
GE even cancelled the 72K-lb-thrust CF6-80E1 program.

Therefore, IMHO, the A330 program needs a boost soon.  The nearest term
possibility is Singapore Airlines' 5-billion-dollar, A310-replacement
order which is expected to be announced in the October time-frame.  Airbus
claims that it is ahead of Boeing in this competition.  However, Singapore
Airlines had said that some of the new aircraft from this order would also
replace the B747 on regional routes.  Last week, Flight International also
reported that after this order, SIA would be looking for an A310-sized
aircraft to serve low-density regional routes (i.e., SIA is looking for
larger aircraft now).  Furthermore, SIA was also reported to be interested
in the B777-100X for non-stop service to the US West Coast from Singapore.
Thus, I think Boeing may have a good chance winning the order.  I don't
think the A330/340 commonality will play a very important role in this
order (SIA already has 17 A340s on firm order, and options on another 20).
Nevertheless, if Airbus does win the order, the commonality factor will
no doubt be emphasized.  (I believe, Cathay Pacific is the only airline
that has ordered both the A330 and 340, but it also has ordered the B777.
Hence, I  don't think the commonality is much an issue here.)

The next "hope" for the A330 is the proposed shortened version which is
pitched as an A300 replacement.  (Actually, that's what I heard long, long
time ago that Airbus was concentrating in marketing the A330 as an A300
replacement.)  I think the new aircraft will have better range capability
so that it can compete more effectively with the B767-300ER than the A300
can.  I believe one of the major targets for the shortened version (along
with the A340-8000) is American Airlines.  Few months ago, there were a
few scattered reports that British Airways might acquire the A330.  BA
has never ordered any Airbus (though it operates some A320s ordered by
British Caledonian).  However, the A330 is the first Airbus with a
Rolls-Royce engine, one can't really rule out the possibility.

Surprisingly, Airbus' biggest customer, Lufthansa, has not shown any
interest in the A330.  Indeed, the A330 is the only missing Airbus line
in Lufthansa's fleet.

In summary, I think the A330 was designed too small for the Asian markets,
too large for the American and European markets.  If the A330 program
cannot secure any major order in the next two years, it may well become
Airbus' biggest flop.

--
  H Andrew Chuang   chuanga@iia2.org