As the air transport industry’s heavy hitters gathered in Doha for IATA’s June 1 to 3 annual general meeting (AGM), thoughts turned to heavy iron—namely, prospective widebody developments that stand to upset the competitive status quo as early as the Farnborough airshow in July. The prospect of a re-engined A330 has generated positive reactions from the most influential figures in the business, some of whose commentary gave the impression that discussions between the manufacturer and prospective customers have reached a fairly advanced stage. At the IATA gathering, Airbus COO for customer John Leahy confirmed that a decision on whether or not to launch an A330neo would come fairly soon.
But whether or not Airbus has the appetite to spend at least another $2 billion and the willingness or ability to dedicate the needed engineering resources to take on such a project remains a big question. After all, the company already finds itself in the difficult position of answering Emirates Airline’s call for a re-engined A380. Now Airbus’s biggest A380 customer, Emirates cannot go unheeded, particularly as Boeing pushes hard to place the slow-selling 747-8 with the influential Middle Eastern airline.
In Doha, Leahy made headlines when he predicted the A330neo held the potential to draw orders for as many as 1,000 copies. Whether that prediction took into account airline and leasing company preferences for two new engine choices could prove pivotal, however. Nevertheless, signals from Airbus appear to indicate more optimism about the market potential for the A330neo than it can afford to ignore.