MIAMI — Airbus has commenced the final assembly of its first A330neo, an A330-900, with the joining of the wings to the center fuselage at station 40 in its Final Assembly Line in Toulouse, France. The company reported today.

“We have started with a very tight development schedule and are today right on time,” says Odile Jubécourt, Head of the Airbus A330neo program. He also confirmed that the company is “in good shape to meet the high standards of maturity and reliability our customers expect from us.”

Airbus expects to obtain the certification for the A330-900 in the fourth quarter of 2017, followed by the A330-800 at the end of 2018.

Besides the new engine upgrade, the 252-seat A330-800neo and the 310-seat A330-900neo feature a 3.7-meter wingspan extension to 64 meters, A350 XWB-styled wingtips and a 95% of commonality with the current A330 family aircraft. Airbus claims that the updated A330neo will improve the fuel consumption by 14 percent per seat when compared with the current A330s in service.

The A330neo will also debut the company’s new Airspace cabin, which features larger overhead storage bins, wider seats (18 inches in economy class) and aisles, besides an unobstructed under-seat foot space.

The Airbus Airspace cabin concept depicting the A330neo passenger cabin. (Credits: Airbus)

The improved fuel burn also grants an additional 400-nautical mile range, leading to a 6,550 nautical miles (12,130 km) on the A330-900 and 7,500 nautical miles (13,890 km) on the A330-800.

To date, 10 customers have ordered a total of 186 A330neo since its launch at the 2014 Farnborough Airshow. AirAsia X leads the list with 66 aircraft on order, followed by Delta Air Lines, which placed an order for 25 A330-900neos in November 2014. Hawaiian Airlines opted to swap its A350-800 order for six A330-800neos.

Last April, TAP Portugal became the launch customer for the A330-900, with 14 aircraft on order. Also, Garuda Indonesia confirmed a firm order for 14 A330-900s, upgrading an existing order for seven A330-300s.