Airbus announced a revamp of its twin-aisle A330 passenger jet on Monday, offering a cheaper alternative to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner as the two planemakers vie for up to $250 billion in orders from cost-conscious airlines.
The European planemaker launched the A330neo to open Britain's July 14-20 Farnborough Airshow with a deal for 25 planes from leasing company Air Lease Corp.
Airbus boss Fabrice Bregier predicted up to 100 purchase commitments this week for the model, which features new, more fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce engines.
Airbus is aiming to prolong the success of its A330 planes amid a challenge from Boeing's all-new carbon-fibre 787 Dreamliner.
The A330neo is also aimed at addressing poor sales of its own new A350-800, the smallest of the next-generation A350 family and a model which looks set to be halted or suspended as a result.
Air Lease Corp, which encouraged Airbus to upgrade the A330, said the new plane offered improved efficiency at a good price, and predicted it would extend the model's life by 20-25 years.
"There is a compelling price difference between the A330neo and any other wide body (plane). I think it was a very smart, astute move on the part of Airbus," Air Lease President and Chief Operating Officer John Plueger said.
Industry sources said the A330neo was likely to undercut the Boeing's 787 by about 25 percent based on the price of actual deals rather than list prices.
However, Boeing defended the value offered by the 787.
"I don't really care what is said, this is really the most efficient airplane family around," Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Ray Conner said of the 787.
RECORD ORDER BOOKS
Airbus and Boeing slug it out for the lion's share of the $100 billion a year global commercial jet market.
Their record order books, swelled by demand from fast-growing Middle Eastern and Asian airlines as well as low-cost carriers, have raised questions over their ability to deliver as well as concerns about over-capacity.
The 250-300 seat market is the largest segment of the wide-body jet market by volume and represents 4,520 aircraft worth more than $1 trillion over the next 20 years, according to Boeing's latest market forecast, published last week.
Airbus believes the new A330-800neo and A330-900neo models can achieve at least 1,000 of those orders, but Boeing says the market opportunity is closer to 400 planes and even then, only for a short period.
Still, the cheaper A330neo is expected to spark increased price competition.
"The A330neo could potentially