MIAMI — Russian airline Transaero has cancelled its order for four Boeing 787-8s, consolidating its mid-sized widebody fleet on the rival Airbus A330. The Russian leisure carrier ordered 20 Airbus A330s (eight ceos and 12 neos) at July’s Farnborough Airshow , which are earmarked to replace the carrier’s fleet of 15 (soon to be 16) Boeing 767-300ERs and provide four frames of growth to replace the 787-8 order.  Transaero placed its 787 order in early 2012, and also has 13 Boeing 737-800s and four Boeing 747-8is on order from the Chicago-based manufacturer.

Reports had emerged that Transaero had converted the four 787-8s to 747-8is, but Boeing spokesperson Doug Alder said that no conversion had occurred to date. “Transaero had eight Boeing widedbodies on order, four 787s and four 747-8s,“ said Mr. Alder, “… now it has four. Transaero decided that the 747-8i fit its fleet needs better.” According to Mr. Alder, Transaero lacks additional purchase options for the 747-8 beyond the four frames it has on firm order. Accordingly, the reported increase in Transaero’s 747-8i order-book to eight aircraft would require the Moscow-based airline to place entirely new orders.

The cancellation of the 787s once again shines the spotlight on the head-to-head battle between Airbus’ re-tooled A330 and the new-generation 787. Commentary mostly focused on the pricing advantage that Airbus has with the A330neo, but in Transaero’s case, availability probably played the largest role. With just four aircraft on order Transaero likely would have been unable to replace its aging fleet of 16 Boeing 767-300ERs, which have an average age of 18.5 years.

For most of its history, Transaero has had a fleet of used widebody aircraft. It was one of the last operators of the Boeing 747-300, and its current all-Boeing (747, 767, and 777) fleet of 51 widebody aircraft is used. While the 51 aircraft are split across six different variants and three families, if the reports of additional 747-8i orders are valid, then it appears that Transaero is opting to consolidate and simplify its fleet to the A330, A380, and 747-8i. Transaero has four A380s on order, but cancelling that orphan order to focus on the 747-8i as a replacement for its 20 747-400s.

Geopolitically, the status of Russian orders for Boeing aircraft have been thrown into doubt given the escalation of tensions surrounding Russian government actions in Ukraine. An escalation of economic sanctions from the United States could affect orders for both Boeing and Airbus aircraft.