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  • Writer's pictureGary Crichlow

A330neo, Market Leader or "Middle Child"?

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

AV Analysis Week 39

A regular update where our in house team of aviation experts and ISTAT certified appraisers use our data to analyse values, market movements and notable aviation news.


This week, our Head of Commercial Analysts, Gary Crichlow, gives an overview of A330neo values, operators, status and activity.


Introduction

In this article, we explore the A330neo market, particularly in the context of its relationship with both the A330ceo it supersedes and the clean sheet A350. In terms of technology, cost and capability the A330neo sits firmly between the two. Like the proverbial middle child, it has been overshadowed to some extent in terms of uptake.


That being said, it has significant potential to come into its own while existing comfortably alongside its stablemates: Delta Air Lines in particular operates a large fleet of all three types. Significant replacement opportunities also exist with the large number of A330ceo operators globally, particularly in Asia Pacific where the type is a workhorse for regional travel, centred on China: Cathay Pacific is expected to determine its A330ceo replacement requirements soon, and Airbus has been courting mainland Chinese carriers to place Widebody orders.


The challenge faced by the A330neo is that the A330ceo fleet is still relatively young, with 42% of A330-300s and 21% of A330-200s 10 years old or younger. And there are a lot of them: nearly 1,200 passenger configured aircraft are still counted as live in AviationValues’ fleet database. The possibility of the Chinese Widebody C929’s debut within the replacement horizon of these aircraft, and its effect on the A330neo’s prospects in China, is certainly one to monitor.


A330neo Fleet Development

Airbus introduced its A330neo series at the Farnborough Airshow in 2014. The first A330neo delivery occurred on 28 November 2018, an A330-900 operated by TAP Air Portugal. The first A330-800 variant was delivered nearly two years later on 29 October 2020 to Kuwait Airways.


Featuring the same fuselage lengths and cross section of the preceding A330ceo aircraft, the A330-800 mirrors the A330-200 and the A330-900 the A330-300. The A330neo incorporates new technology engines from a single manufacturer (Rolls-Royce) in contrast with the A330ceo multiple engine offerings from GE, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce. In addition, Airbus increased the wingspan and adopted materials and technologies from its A350 programme, including similarly styled winglets.


As of September 2023, AviationValues’ database shows a total of 111 A330neo deliveries to commercial operators. The vast majority of these are A330-900s. By comparison, AviationValues tracks 1,196 A330ceo (A330-300 and A330-200) aircraft in passenger configuration that are still live from a production run that spans nearly three decades from 1993 to 2022. An additional 62 are in freighter configuration (38 new production and 24 passenger conversions); and 49 in Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) usage (43 new production, 6 conversions). AviationValues has also recorded 550 A350s delivered to commercial customers.

The live A330neo fleet is currently focused in North America and Europe, with Delta Air Lines and TAP Air Portugal the largest operators. There is significant and growing representation in Asia Pacific and the Middle East, as well as South America and Africa.


The below map represents the current operating fleet by country allocation.

A330neo Order Backlog Observations

Orders and Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) have been infrequent in 2023. Aircraft lessor Avolon signed an MOU to order 20 A330-900s at the Paris Air Show in June 2023. In the same month, Airbus reported that Algerian flag carrier, Air Algérie, had ordered five as part of a seven aircraft order for the A330-900 and A350-1000.


Over 12 months ago, in August 2022, Malaysia Aviation Group, the parent company of Malaysia Airlines, announced it had signed an MOU for 10 A330-900s from Airbus, with another 10 to be leased from Avolon. Smaller but firm orders in late 2022 for the A330-900 came from Azul and Air Cote d’Ivoire, opting for three and two respectively.


Large historical orders also include Air Lease Corporation (25, firmed in 2015) with aircraft delivered to operators including TAP Air Portugal, Virgin Atlantic, Delta, Air Mauritius, Hi Fly and ITA.


It remains to be seen where the next orders will come from: Airbus has publicly encouraged the main Chinese carriers to place Widebody orders, and Cathay Pacific is expected to announce its Widebody replacement strategy soon.


Value Movements, Transactions & Orders

AviationValues’ proprietary automated valuation model has calculated a modestly increasing trend for A330-800 and A330-900 Market Values in recent months. As outlined in the charts below, Market Values for zero age A330-800s and A330-900s have increased by 4% since September 2022. This upward pressure in recent months appears to be a feature that translated across most Widebodies in general, driven by higher than anticipated demand and constrained supply of available aircraft.


Recent transactions analysed by AviationValues’ analyst team include:

  • Deliveries of 2 A330-900s to Aircalin in 2019. Industry filings indicated these aircraft were acquired for c. USD 110 mil.

  • Sale leasebacks between Condor Flugdienst and Castlelake involving three A330-900s beginning in December 2022. The trading price is undisclosed, but AviationValues’ research indicates an estimated equivalent unencumbered trading price of c. USD 111 mil.

  • Delivery of one A330-800 to Air Greenland in December 2022. Price undisclosed, but estimated equivalent trading price c. USD 100 mil.

  • Acquisition in May 2023 of one A330-900 on lease to Cebu Pacific by Aerdragon Aviation Leasing Company from JLPS Ireland. The trading price is undisclosed, but AviationValues’ research indicates an estimated equivalent unencumbered trading price of c. USD 112 mil.

A330neo in the Context of the A330ceo & A350

In terms of technology, cost and capability the A330neo sits firmly between the A330ceo and the A350-900.


* As per EASA Type Certificate Data Sheet. Cebu Pacific has an A330-900 all-economy layout of 459 seats, and Airbus states a maximum capacity of 460 for the A330-900

** Airbus figures

*** Non-Ultra Long Range (ULR)


AviationValues’ fleet data shows that, of all the operators utilising any or all three aircraft types, nearly two thirds currently operate only A330ceo (A330-200 and A330-300) aircraft. Compared to 3% sole A330neo (A330-800 and A330-900) operators and 4% sole A350-900/-1000 operators.


Nine out of the ten largest operators of the three variants currently operate combined fleets. The exception, Singapore Airlines, is a historical A330ceo operator and opted to replace its aircraft with A350s. Delta Air Lines stands out as the largest operator with all three in its fleet.


The remaining eight currently operate A330ceo and A350 variants. China figures prominently, with four carriers. As noted earlier, the large Chinese airlines in particular are being heavily courted for Widebody orders, and it remains to be seen whether the A330neo will figure into those plans.


Top 10 Operators of the A330ceo, A330neo and A350

Of the operators that currently have outstanding firm A330neo and A350 orders, the preference for the A350 is clear. Emirates initially signed a letter of intent for 40 A330-900s and 30 A350-900s in February 2019; nine months later it amended the A350-900 order to a firm 50, but the A330-900s were dropped.


Looking Ahead

The A330neo is the natural replacement for the A330ceo, and given the number of A330ceo operators there would appear to be reasonable potential for A330neo orders to grow.


However, A330ceos are themselves only recently out of production. A large proportion of the fleet is 10 years old or younger, particularly for the A330-300.


In addition, the A330ceo is a workhorse for regional travel within Asia, particularly China, whose travel market was the last major market to reopen after the Covid-19 pandemic and whose largest carriers have yet to announce firm orders to replace their A330ceo fleets.


Given the average age distribution of the A330-200 versus the A330-300, the A330-200 is more likely to start its replacement cycle first. However, it is by no means assured that it would be replaced like for like with the A330-800 or upgraded to the A330-900.


In fact, precedent suggests the likelihood of the A350 or Boeing 787 making inroads. Hawaiian Airlines replaced its A330-200s with 787-9s, switching from its original plan to acquire A330-800s. Both Singapore Airlines and Qantas decided to replace their A330ceos with A350s and 787s, and Emirates opted to firm its commitment to A350s rather than move ahead with its A330-900 letter of intent. Air France-KLM has also gone the A350 route.


It is also possible that COMAC’s C929 Widebody will also make its debut at some point within the A330ceo’s replacement horizon. This would place a domestically produced competitor in the middle of the A330ceo’s most important market, and perhaps the A330neo’s largest target market.


Conclusion

The A330neo has had a slow start. Our analysis indicates that its time is still yet to come, as the A330ceo it naturally replaces gradually enters its replacement cycle.


However, a seamless transition from an A330ceo fleet to the equivalent A330neo is unlikely. There is strong competition not only from Airbus’ A350 but also Boeing’s 787 family; and there is the possibility of a debut of COMAC’s C929, which would place a homegrown competitor at the heart of the A330ceo’s key Chinese market.


Based on the examples set on the one hand by carriers such as Delta Air Lines, which operates the A330ceo, A330neo and A350 side by side; and on the other by Singapore Airlines, which opted to replace its A330ceo flying with A350s and 787s, it is clear that there are significant opportunities for the A330neo, but also significant challenges.


The interplay amongst all of these factors is dynamic and complex. AviationValues’ daily updated, objective values, fleet datasets and analytics tools are the perfect platform to easily keep on top of market developments.


Data as of September 2023.


Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog is to provide general information and not to provide advice or guidance in relation to particular circumstances. Readers should not make decisions in reliance on any statement or opinion contained in this blog.


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