MIAMI — On the sidelines of yesterday’s A319 delivery event to American Airlines, Airways spoke with Airbus Chief Operating Officer – Customers John Leahy, who confirmed to us that the much discussed “regional” version of the widebody Airbus A330 aircraft is just an existing A330 with de-rated engines. He told us about the changes that will bring about this “regional” A330:

Its a de-rated engine, lower takeoff rate on the airplane, and higher cycles obviously, and its going back full circle to when the airplane began; it was a regional airplane and then we built it up into a different airplane. Now we are bringing it back to a regional version for a lot of people; lower engine thrust, lower engine maintenance costs, lower price, lower take off weight. So it will be a regional airplane.

He also agreed that Asia would be a target market for this new A330 phase:

I think it will be very good for Asia, I think it will be ideal for China. They have a lot of trips of 4 or 5 hours so this is a widebody plane optimized for 4 to 5 hours to really reduce congestion at some of the airports in China and around Asia.

And Leahy clarified his recent remarks on the Boeing 787 in Tolouse for us:

That was the comparison of a 787 and an A330. On an A330, you can fly from New York to Tokyo, carrying the same number of passengers as the 787-8, with wider seats. You’ll burn about 12% more fuel but you’ll have a 30% better capital cost and higher dispatch reliability.

Asian carrier Singapore Airlines has long operated a fleet of Boeing 777-200ER aircraft with de-rated engines for services within Asia. Airbus has already made several enhancements to its A330-300 variant, including increasing the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) to 242 metric tones. It remains unclear the timeline over which this de-rated A330 will be launched, and how much it will cost.