TOULOUSE – Airbus has delivered the world’s first A330neo to launch operator, TAP Portugal (TP), just over a year after the aircraft performed its maiden flight.

At a ceremony in Toulouse, Airbus handed over the keys of the brand-new aircraft to the Portuguese carrier, covered by a significant presence of worldwide media.

Airbus President Guillaume Faury.

Commenting on the milestone was Airbus President, Guillaume Faury, who highlighted the fact that the Portuguese carrier will be receiving a combination of A330neo and A321LR aircraft.

“The A330neo will join TAP’s A320neo, A321neo, as well as the A321LR in 2019,” he said.

“With this combination of single-aisle and wide-body neo aircraft, TAP will cover all of its potential regional and long-haul routes for decades to come”.

The first A330-900neo for TAP (CS-TUB • MSN1836) happens to be the same aircraft that was used by Airbus as part of the route proving campaign earlier in the summer.

In 2015, TAP converted its A350 order for the A330neo and has committed to 21 of the type. 

TAP CEO Antonoaldo Neves

Antonoaldo Neves, the CEO of TAP Portugal, noted the “economics and efficiency” of the A330neo, stating it will “power our business forward”.

He added, “the A330neo will give us a lot of operational flexibility thanks to its commonality with the other Airbus aircraft in our fleet.”

“This aircraft will be the first equipped with the new Airspace cabin, which is a new concept shaped to meet TAP’s ambition to offer the best product in the industry to our passengers,” he concluded. 

The carrier currently operates a fleet of 72 Airbus aircraft, consisting of 18 A330s, four A340s, and 50 A320 Family aircraft (22 A319ceo, 21 A320ceo, four A321ceo, one A320neo, and two A321neo).

The first A330neo comes in on a leasing agreement with Avolon, and will be deployed on routes from Portugal to the Americas and Africa.

According to sources, its first revenue flight will be from the airline’s base in Lisbon (LIS) Sao Paulo (GRU) as TP087/082. 

Rolls-Royce’s Warren East stated that the A330 has, so far, moved three billion passengers around the world.

“Today is a special day for all of us, it’s great to see this sort of event which underlined the commitment we have for working together. You have been patient in bearing with us whilst we improved our engine,” he said.

He continued to say that the A330neo has a big reduction in noise compared to the Trent 700 engines. 

Context: TAP and the A330neo

Since its launch at the Farnborough Airshow in 2014, the A330neo program has racked up a total of 242 orders between its two variants, the -800neo and -900neo, the latter being the more successful in terms of sales registered.

The first flight of the A330-900neo took place last year, kicking off a 12-18 month certification process before gaining EASA approval on September 26, 2018.

The smaller variant’s first flight took place just recently, on November 6, 2018. 

The A330 program, as a whole, has acquired 1,733 orders from 119 different customers globally.

Both aircraft are direct upgrades of the A330ceo variants, the -200 and -300. The upgraded aircraft will provide a 14% improvement in fuel-efficiency, thanks to all new Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines.

The Trent 7000, alongside the new composite nacelle and high-span wing will also offer up to 25% less fuel burn per seat. 

These have been directly developed from the Trent XWBs that power the A350s and Trent 1000 TEN, which powers the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The upgrades have also given the A330 a considerable range increase. The A330-300ceo has a range of 5,700mm, while the A330-900neo can fly as far as 7,500nm—an increase of 1,500nm.

The A330-900neo also comes with an increased Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) of 251 tons. However, TAP’s launch variant has 242 tons of MTOW. 

The smaller variant, the A330-800neo, has an even greater range of 8,150nm (251T Variant), compared to its A330-200 predecessor, which as a range of 6800nm. The 242T variant can travel up to 7,500nm. 

Both variants of the neo also offer 99% commonality, meaning cheaper operating costs when it comes to training pilots. 

The aircraft can fly efficiently on routes from 30 minutes long to 17 hours, thanks to its weight variants.

Airbus claims that the A330-900neo offers 7% less operating costs per seat versus the 787-9. Also, the -800neo offers 6% less compared to the 787-8. 

AirSpace by Airbus

The A330-900neo is the first aircraft to feature the brand new ‘AirSpace by Airbus’ cabin.

It is an enhancement of the cabin that is offered on the Airbus A350s, and will start to feature on brand new A320neo deliveries from 2020.

New features include improved lighting, larger overhead bins, and a wider overall feeling to the cabin.

TAP’s new A330-900neo will seat 298 passengers, thanks to these enhancements. Compared to the airline’s A330-300ceos, the plane will come with an additional 13 seats.

AirSpace by Airbus also offers one of the quietest cabins. Airbus claims that  the A330neo’s cabin is 3 dB quieter than the 787.

It also offers greater flexibility with an eight-abreast ‘comfort economy’ or nine-abreast with a similar seat width to that of the 787 too. 

Full ambient lighting is also onboard the cabin, offering up to 16.7 million different colors of light and 24 customizable, dynamic lighting scenarios to simulate different times of day to reduce the effects of jetlag. 

A new lower-deck crew rest option is also available for greater privacy and comfort for crew, freeing up space on the main deck for more revenue real estate.

Finally, it offers new innovative and customizable entrance areas, larger modern bins, new lavatories with touchless operational features, as well as new innovative ergonomic gallies and lav space-saving modular options. 

A Look Inside TAP’s New A330neo

Jumping inside the plane unveils a beautiful Business Class, fitted with 34 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration.

The seats are the Recaro CL6710 lie-flat product, featuring a 16-inch touchscreen display, various storage areas included for water bottles and headphones, a six-way adjustable headrest, USB ports, and universal electric charging docks.

There isn’t a Premium Economy cabin, however. Similar to KLM’s Economy Comfort, TAP has a smaller Economy Cabin at the front, featuring extra legroom seats, at 34 inches to be exact.

The extended legroom cabin has 98 seats in total, laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration.

The rest of the Economy Class has 166 seats, also in a 2-4-2 configuration.

One big advantage to the A330, revenue-wise, is that both the ceo and neo variants offer the same 2-4-2 layout, versus the Boeing 767’s 2-3-2 layout and the 787 Dreamliner’s 3-3-3 setup.

Overall, the cabin that TAP’s has chosen for its A330-900neo is very bright and vibrant.

The interior colours link to Portugal thanks to Almadesign, a Portuguese design firm, who have partnered with the airline to create a unique approach to the AirSpace Cabin.

The Business Class looks very vibrant indeed, definitely bringing out the element of Portuguese culture and atmosphere to the in-flight experience.

The cockpit is just like a normal Airbus A330, disappointing as we thought it would have a significant update to the looks of the controls and panels.

However it could be kept the same due to the element of commonality in keeping the type ratings the same for pilots so costs are kept to a minimum when it comes to training. 

Overall, this aircraft does look good on the inside and definitely brings out that new airplane smell, even through the computer and cellular screens. 

The Product Presentation

Crawford Hamilton, the Head of Marketing for the Airbus commercial airplanes program briefed Airways on the status of all its single-aisle and widebody products ahead of the delivery earlier today.

Hamilton said that the new generation Airbus Family is now complete, all the way from the 100-seat market, straight up to the 600+ seat market. 

He said that the new generation twin-aisle family offers up to 25% less fuel burn than the previous generation, with four optimally sized long-haul aircraft offering same pilot and passenger experience through the Airspace Cabin.

The A330neo aircraft offers a new engine, new wing, and new generational performance, with the Airspace cabin adding an extra 10 seats.

The new wing also offers reshaped slats, flap track fairings, new composite Sharklets, and a new composite upper belly fairing. 

Continued emphasis on the Airspace cabin stated that it is a consistent design across the new variants, and is the most “comfortable and quietest” cabin on offer.

It also offers welcoming entrance areas, larger modern bins and newer lavatories. 

The engine follows on from the Trent XWB engine technology on the A350 program.

In terms of contribution to block fuel per trip, weight, aero wingspan, and optimization, the plane offers 3-4% better performance than the 787-9, according to Hamilton.

In terms of block fuel per seat, the A330neo offers up to 7% saving in fuel per seat, he said.

Hamilton then went on to discuss the program and how the -900neo, in particular, gained certification.

The aircraft completed route proving around the world, traveling to 15 cities across 12 countries, over four trips from as far north as to Svalbard to as far south as to Rio De Janeiro.

Certification from EASA was awarded on September 26 this year.

Airbus mentioned that the entry into service of the A330neo is ahead of the replacement market, as demand for newer aircraft begins more in the 2019/2020 financial years.

The A330 program, in terms of sales, is ahead of the 787 family, according to Airbus. About 419 units have been sold (214 A330neos & 205 A330ceos) since the launch compared to just 415 from the 787 Dreamliner. 

In terms of operating synergies, 72 airlines operate both A320 and A330 Family aircraft.

Market share for the A321 and A330 has increased from 42% in 2008, to 62% in 2017, showing significant demand for the programs.

Airbus emphasized how it is “ready to take TAP into the future with the A321neo” and how it remains ready to fend off any competition going into the future. 

Overall View, Fleet Renewal Program

The introduction of the latest version of the A330 family is just a small part of TAP Portugal’s fleet renewal plan.

The A330 will help TAP both strengthen and improve its existing route network, as well as open new routes it could not operate previously.

The plane will also help the airline replace its aging fleet of A330-200s and 300s, reducing operating costs and CO2 Emissions altogether.

TAP Portugal has orders for 17 A321neos and 19 A320neos. On top of this, it has 14 Longe Range A321 Neos on order, the first of which is scheduled to arrive in Portugal shortly, bearing the registration CS-TXA (MSN8596).

TAP plans to use the new Long Range A321s on its Porto – Newark route, also aiming to open up longer/thinner routes where demand exists, but not quite enough for an A330 product.

All brand new aircraft for TAP Portugal will be delivered by 2025, giving it one of the youngest, most fuel-efficient fleets in Europe.

With the introduction of these new planes, TAP has an exciting and bright future ahead.

Reported by Daniel Sander, written by James Field