COVID-19 is claiming another victim, and it may be one that nobody saw coming – The A330neo. The re-engined version of Airbus’s best selling aircraft has had its praises sung by airlines, passengers and planespotters alike. But, it takes a good look at the airlines operating this aircraft to see that not everything is as rosy as it may seem.
As a re-engined version of the A330ceo, the low costs of purchasing a tried and tested fuselage with the efficiencies of the 787 have proved popular among smaller airlines and airlines in a financially weaker position, where buying a whole new aircraft type might have proved inviable. This certainly was the case for Air Mauritius, who operated two of the type up until they went into voluntary administration in late April.
Those two A330neos are in danger, for sure.
Now, what if I told you that, out of the 226 orders Airbus has earned, 114 of those are in danger?
AirAsia X has ordered 78 of the type, representing just over a third of the aircraft’s total orders. It is currently fighting for its life during the pandemic, facing liquidity in its attempts to achieve loans from the Malaysian government. It is also looking to defer or cancel its gigantic order for the A330neo, which will prove devastating for the program.
Another airline that may well fail to take on its A330neos is IranAir, but this one is one we might have seen coming. Iran is currently under several trade embargos from the United States, and with the amount of US-made parts in the A330neo, it will prove impossible for Iran’s flag carrier to be able to take on these planes. The same has applied for their future Boeing fleet, which would have included the 737 MAX and 777X.
Last on our list of airlines in danger of cancelling their A330neos is Virgin Atlantic. Britain’s self-proclaimed flag carrier has not been in a good spot, with its sister airline down under, Virgin Australia, recently filing for bankruptcy, and the airline’s billionaire founder Richard Branson pleading to keep his airline afloat.
This all seems to have come to a head in New York, where the airline has applied for Chapter 15 Bankruptcy Protection as it scrambles to restructure, finance itself and make it out of the COVID pandemic alive. Virgin Atlantic ordered the A330neos to replace their ageing A330ceo fleet, but in the wake of this abrupt bankruptcy, it would not be shocking if these orders get cancelled or deferred. – In recent days however creditors voted in favour of a £1.2bn rescue deal, this may save the order.
Of course, this is all a series of what-ifs, but it’s essential to realise that over half of the A330neos ordered are in danger in one way or another. While I don’t think this will destroy the program, especially in the long run, I do believe that Airbus still has a long way to go to consolidate this aircraft type and bring it out of the shadow of the A330ceo.
What do you think? Will the A330neo program fall victim to the COVID-19 pandemic? Or will orders from the likes of Delta and ALC be enough to keep it afloat? Be sure to let us know.
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