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The Airbus A330 is a large, twin-engined widebody airliner for medium range flights. It seats between 250 and 350 passengers. Airbus launched the A330 in June 1987 together with the four-engined, long-range A340 as a single aircraft programme.
The A330 and A340 had an excellent sales start and within a few years after the launch there were around 500 commitments for both aircraft models together. After this hopeful start, however, sales slowed down and Airbus had to revise its planned production rates downwards. Reasons for this were overcapacity on the market in the early nineties and the bad financial shape of many airlines.
The A330-300 seats 335 passengers in a two-class cabin layout. In January 1994 this version entered service with the French domestic airline Air Inter.
When sales of the A330-300 became disappointing during the Nineties, Airbus developed the ten frames shortened A330-200, which offers increased weight, more fuel capacity, a strengthened wing and more range. The first flight of this version took place in August 1997 and the A330-200 entered service with Canada 3000 in April 1998.
Airbus considered an even shorter version of the A330, the A330-100, as an A300 and A310 replacement. At first an hybrid aircraft was proposed: a shortened A330 fuselage with an A300-600 wing, but later, to keep maximum commonality with the original aircraft, Airbus proposed the A330-wing. However, the idea of an A330-100 seems forgotten now.
Artist's impression of the A330-900neo - Image: Airbus
When Boeing launched the 787 Dreamliner, Airbus intended to answer with a re-engined A330, designated "A350". However, the airlines wanted something more than just an A330 with new engines and in the end Airbus decided to develop the all-new A350.
Airbus hesitated to revive the old idea of a re-engined A330, but a growing number of airlines appeared more interested in an A330neo (new engine option) than in the same-size A350-800, the projected smallest version of the A350. After some time of deliberation, Airbus announced the launch of the A330neo at the Farnborough International Airshow on 14 July 2014. The first customers committing to the A330neo are AirAsiaX, Transaero Airlines and some leasing companies.
Artist's impression of the A330-900neo in Transaero colours - Image: Airbus
A330neo customers will have only one engine option, the Rolls-Royce Trent 7000. Because the new engine is heavier than the A330's existing engines, Airbus has to strengthen the wings and develop a new pylon. With the new engines and aerodynamic refinements - including A350-style winglets - the A330neo will use 14 per cent less fuel than its forerunner, according to Airbus.
Airbus will develop two versions: the A330-800neo and A330-900neo, both with a maximum take-off weight of 242 tonnes. They are the successors of the A330-300 and A330-200 respectively. The first A330-900neo is to be delivered in late 2017 and the first A330-800neo in early 2018.
Canada 3000 was the first user of the Airbus A330-200.
Swiss Air Lines