Hawaiian Airlines signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus this week converting their order for six A350-800s to A330-800neos. The move also delays the initial delivery of the new widebody planes from 2017 to 2019. For Hawaiian the A330neo aircraft more or less match the capacity of the existing A330-200 fleet and will offer a slightly longer range (400nm) and better fuel efficiency (14%) per Airbus estimates. Converting the order also improves the commonality with the existing A330 fleet, something which should reduce total operating costs over time.
Perhaps more significant than this change in Hawaiian’s fleet, however, is the impact it will have on the A350XWB-800 product in general: It is now almost certainly dead.
Airbus has been quite clear over the past year or so that they have no desire to actually make the smallest version of the A350. Most customers had previously converted off the –800 model type but Hawaiian, along with Aeroflot, Asiana and lessor Awas Aviation Capital, are still holding delivery slots for the type. And as recently as the beginning of June Hawaiian was adamant that they were standing by the order; the A350-800 was the best option for their fleet plans. That changed with the announcement of the A330neo. There are now only 28 open orders for the plane and it is not hard to believe that Asiana and Aeroflot will also convert their orders over to the A330-800neo or another type in the coming months.
Turns out that the A350-800 never really did find a market to serve. And now the market is walking away from it once and for all.
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Or Airbus is aggressively courting 350-800 customers to convert so they can scrap the program. I’d imagine the last ones standing will likely receive some favorable terms in their conversion agreements.
I’m sure that’s at play as well. Airbus needs to get these orders off the books and I’m sure they’ll be aggressive if needed to make it happen. But the part where they realized a while ago that it wasn’t going to sell and stopped trying is interesting, too.
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