When it was introduced in 1992, the A330 drew less attention than the four-engine A340, an Airbus bet to compete in the market with Boeing and McDonnell Douglas on long-haul flights. Almost 30 years later, however, the twin engine not only saw its “brother” fail with just 377 units manufactured, but has just arrived at the 1,501th aircraft delivered by September.
Airbus celebrated the milestone on Monday by pointing out that the 1,500th aircraft had been delivered to Delta Air Lines on September 21.
In the market range where it operates, the A330 is really a phenomenon. Even though it emerged well after the Boeing 767 (which was at the time a rival to the A300), the widebody accumulated many orders, especially after having a smaller variant, the A330-200, which almost doubled the aircraft’s demand.
The result is that currently the A330 family, which includes the Neo model, has already accumulated 1,818 orders, or 42% more than the 1,279 orders for the Boeing 767.
The Airbus model is second only to sales for the Boeing 777, which has more than 2,000 orders (including the 777X) and 1,640 units shipped to its customers.
The absolute numbers, however, hide some nuances of this market. Although families of widebodies are not always direct competitors in some niches, the strategies of Boeing and Airbus ended up creating distortions in this scenario.
Boeing, for example, launched the 787 Dreamliner as a successor to the 767 and thereby virtually ended its career in passenger transport – today the jet only keeps orders for the cargo or military version. Airbus, for its part, was a pioneer in this market with the A300 and its smaller brother, the A310, which accumulated 816 assembled units, but which operated in a small capacity range by current standards.
Years ago, the European planemaker also decided to compete at a higher level of capacity when launching the A350, which disputes orders with both the largest 787 and the 777 planes. Although efficient, the plane still has a small number of units delivered (379), but the largest current backlog, with 551 jets, slightly more than the 787 (526).
In the sum of all twin engine widebodies, Boeing still has over 4,800 orders against 3,564 from Airbus. At least in the list of aircraft to be delivered the two manufacturers are closer. As long as the market sees value again in these huge planes, currently left in the background by many companies in the face of the effects of the pandemic.