TOULOUSE (Reuters) – Airbus <AIR.PA> staged a maiden fight of the upgraded A330-800 jetliner on Tuesday, hoping the key milestone will boost the fortunes of a variant that has failed to make headway against newer types.
The wide-body, 257-seat model features new engines from Rolls-Royce <RR.L> and is designed as a lower-cost alternative to all-new long-haul jets like the A350 and Boeing 787.
A larger and more successful model called the A330-900 is due to be delivered to first customer TAP Portugal later this month, but ownership is concentrated among relatively few airlines and Airbus hopes for more sales to ensure a return.
The two aircraft are collectively known as the A330neo family.
Development of both jets has been delayed by late engine deliveries from Rolls-Royce.
The A330-800 had until recently been left with no customers after Hawaiian Airlines cancelled an order, but Airbus announced last month it had won an order for eight from Kuwait Airways.
Industry sources said that order had, however, been achieved at the expense of at least some of Kuwait’s orders for 10 costlier A350s, which Airbus had agreed to forgo in order to help kickstart the A330-800.
Airbus has declined to comment on the transaction.
Airbus says the A330neo is more efficient than the Boeing 787 because it costs less to buy and maintain. Boeing <BA.N> argues its lightweight 787 offers savings that outweigh the higher purchase cost and that higher oil prices will only reinforce this.
(Reporting by Paris newsroom, Writing by Tim Hepher; Editing by Mark Potter)