The A330-800 is one of the rarest commercial jets currently in service. Only four aircraft have been delivered, with 11 more still on order. Let’s explore which airlines have ordered the A330-800 and why more haven’t.
Flying, but few orders
The A330neo series was launched in 2014 as an upgraded engine offering for the A330. Like the A330 series, there are only two variants. The smaller A330-800 offers a capacity of 220-600, and the larger A330-900 offers 260 to 300 capacity. Range is increased though for the smaller variant – 8,150 nautical miles compared to 7,200 nautical miles.
The A330-900 was certified first and entered service with TAP Air Portugal in December 2018. It has proved popular with 316 orders to date and 54 aircraft delivered (according to Airbus data).
The A330-800 received its type certification in early 2020. But so far, the A330-800 only has 15 confirmed orders from four airlines – Air Greenland, Kuwait Airways, Garuda Indonesia, and Uganda Airlines. We take a look here at each of these.
Kuwait Airways has the largest A330-800 order for eight aircraft. It was also the launch customer for the type in October 2020 and operated the world’s first passenger flight for the type in November 2020. It now has two aircraft but is waiting for six more.
Its first flight in November 2020 was the popular Kuwait to Dubai sector, one of the busiest flight routes globally. So far, it has not been scheduled on long-haul routes, but with its range, there are many options for this. Perhaps as flying resumes, it could be used for London, Guangzhou, Manila, or possibly New York.
Uganda Airlines ordered two A330-800s and has taken delivery of both of them. The first arrived in December 2020, and the second in February 2021. Uganda Airlines is one of the youngest airlines around, only established in late 2019. And the A330-800s are its first aircraft from Airbus (joining the Bombardier CRJ900).
These aircraft allow the airline to expand into long-haul routes. Service to London was scheduled to start in March 2021, offering the only direct connection from Entebbe to London (British Airways dropped the route in 2015).
The airline has also introduced a great interior for the A330-800. Simple Flying took a detailed look at this when it was unveiled. Business class features 20 fully flat seats in a 1-2-1 configuration.
Air Greenland has an order for one A330-800 but is yet to take delivery. The order was only confirmed in December 2020. Previously, it was deciding between taking the A330neo or the 787. It will replace its only long-haul aircraft, an aging A330-200, used on its route to Copenhagen.
It is likely that one of the reasons the A330-800 was chosen (over the A330-900 and the 787) is its ability to operate from shorter runways. This is an issue in Greenland, and the airline hopes to expand service to new airports.
Garuda has four A330-800s on order but has yet to take delivery of any. It also has 12 of the larger A330-900 aircraft ordered (three of which have been delivered). These upgrades make sense for Garuda as it already operates a sizeable fleet of A330-200 and A330-300 aircraft (also joined in the long-haul fleet by the Boeing 777).
It is not yet clear where these new aircraft will fly. But it is possible that the slightly increased range of the A330-800 was of interest to Garuda. We know that the airline is looking at direct flights from Denpasar, Bali (DPS) once the market recovers. With its range, the A330-800 could reach Paris, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Speaking about these plans, Garuda president director Irfan Setiaputra said:
“Garuda and the Tourism Ministry have agreed that the only way to boost foreign tourist visits is by introducing direct flights to Denpasar. Hopefully, we can make it through this crisis and start direct flights from countries that have large spending capabilities.”
Why is the A330-800 not so popular?
There is, of course, nothing fundamentally wrong with the A330-800. Airline’s choice to order the A330-900 really comes down to the increased capacity for only a small trade-off in range,
The A330neo is, in most cases, not being used as a flagship long-haul aircraft but as a high-capacity aircraft for medium-range routes. The difference in range doesn’t make a huge difference to the routes it can operate, and the higher capacity is more appealing. Apart from some specific niche areas, the economics of the largest model just work out better.
Would you like to share any thoughts on the A330-800? It occupies a niche role for these few airlines. Will we see any more interest with the reduced demand likely for the coming years?