Airbus announces upgraded A330 as Boeing Dreamliner rival

In a move that surprised almost no one, Airbus on Monday announced it will re-engine its popular A330 jetliner as a rival to Boeing’s composite-bodied 787 Dreamliner.

The European planemaker had been shopping the upgraded, twin-engine long-haul plane to airlines and leasing companies for months. The plane will use new engines from Rolls-Royce and aerodynamic upgrades to reduce its fuel consumption by 14 percent, said Airbus.

The first of the upgraded planes, called the A330neo, will be delivered to launch customers in the fourth quarter of 2017, the company said at the Farnborough International Air Show in England. Farnborough is this year’s biggest international air show.

“The A330 is a very important margin contributor for our group,” Airbus Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders said in a statement. “It is also one of the most reliable and efficient commercial aircraft ever. Customers love it.”

The Airbus announcement came against a backdrop of billions of dollars of new airplane orders and commitments from airlines and leasing companies around the world.

Boeing announced some $6 billion in new orders and commitments Monday. Avolon Holdings LLC, Monarch Airlines and Okay Airways all ordered Boeing planes Monday. Monarch ordered 30 737 Max 8s worth $3.1 billion. Avolon ordered six 787-9 Dreamliners and five 737 Max 9 aircraft. Okay, China’s largest privately held carrier, ordered 10 737s — six Max 8s and four 800s. The airline also upgraded a previous order for five 737-800s to a like number of larger 737-900ERs.

As part of its announcement of the upgraded A330, Airbus noted that Air Lease Corp. had ordered 25 of those planes as well as additional A321s. Those orders were worth in excess of $14 billion at list prices.

The A330neo, an upgraded version of the 20-year-old A330 design, will hold about 300 passengers. That compares with about 280 for Boeing’s 787-9.

Both are twin-engine planes. The neo (new engine option) of the A330 will have a range some 450 miles greater than the existing A330. That plane has the range to fly from Seattle to Europe nonstop.

Boeing maintains that its 787 will be more economical to operate than the A330neo despite the Airbus plane’s new engines.