Airbus studies engine revamp of A330: sources

Fri Jan 10, 2014 1:23pm EST
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By Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) - After increasing sales of its A320 jet by revamping it with newer and more efficient engines, Airbus (AIR.PA: Quote) is studying whether to repeat the process with a larger jet, the A330, industry sources and analysts said.

Sales of the 20-year-old A330 have enjoyed an unexpected boom in recent years after Boeing's (BA.N: Quote) radically new 787 Dreamliner encountered three years of production delays and many airlines turned to the cheaper and proven Airbus model.

But the backlog of sales is dwindling and analysts say Airbus faces questions over whether it can maintain current A330 production rates in the second half of the decade without something else to offer airlines coping with high fuel bills.

Officially, Airbus is happy with the way sales of its most successful wide-body jet are holding up, following years of incremental improvements and increases in range and capability.

But suppliers and industry experts say behind the scenes, Airbus is looking seriously at whether to re-engine the A330.

"It is being discussed. It is one of the options in the mix," said an industry source briefed on the plans.

Airbus said it had nothing to add to recent comments made by a company official who told Air Insight website there was no immediate pressure to produce a revamped version of the aircraft. The firm is due to hold its annual news conference on Monday.

Analysts say such an upgrade would cost around $1 billion.   Continued...

An Aeroflot Airbus A330 plane heading to the Cuban capital Havana takes off from Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport July 6, 2013.REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov