MIAMI — Air Greenland has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Airbus for an order of one A330-800neo, becoming the third customer to ever place an order for the smallest variant of the A330neo family.

The carrier plans to use the new-engined widebody to replace its 22-year-old A330-200, which was originally delivered to Sabena in September 1998.

Photo: calflier001

The new aircraft will “efficiently serve the needs of the community by linking Greenland and Copenhagen,” noted Airbus in a public statement.

This order is excellent news for Airbus, as its A330-800neo has failed to be as efficient as its bigger sister ship in terms of sales.

Customers have opted for the larger A330-900neo, which has managed to sell 325 planes as of December 2019, in contrast to the 14 planes that the -800neo has effectively sold.

Air Greenland now joins Kuwait Airways and Uganda Airlines as the sole customers for the A330-800neo.

Why is the A330-800neo so unpopular?

Part of the issue facing the -800neo is the popular demand in the second-hand market for the A330-200, which many airlines will operate for over 20 years before replacing it.

While order numbers are still low for the type, it is still possible that the aircraft will start to pick up more sales as the world’s A330-200 fleet age continues to increment.

While many airlines would likely want to keep the aircraft, new CO2 emission regulations and the ever-rising costs of aviation fuel remain a strong driving force in an airline’s future fleet planning scheme. More fuel-efficient planes are set to take the front seat in orders in 2020.

Now, why has the A330-800neo been so unsuccessful? It partly comes down to the size of the aircraft. When you compare the seating capacity of the plane you see that Airbus is, somewhat, competing against itself. The A350-900 and the A330-900neo are almost like-for-like planes in terms of passenger numbers and range.

This is where many felt the A330-800neo would fit the bill as a perfect middle-ground for many airlines looking to expand their single-aisle fleet. However, the launch of the A321XLR has shown that the demand for planes like the A330-800neos size is lower than ever. 

All in all, it is unlikely that the A330-800neo project will shut any time soon, as the economics of manufacturing a smaller airplane inside the same assembly line is marginal. However, if sales and orders for the type do not continue to grow as Airbus may hope, the European planemaker might have to re-assess the future of its wide-body portfolio.