Airbus SAS will start offering an improved version of its twin-engine A330 wide-body that extends its range or payload, two people familiar with the plan said.
Airbus management has signed off on the proposal, which may be unveiled at the Farnborough Air show starting next week, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plan hasn't been announced yet. The new version would have a maximum takeoff weight of 240 metric tons, extending the range by about 400 nautical miles, the people said.
The company completed a detailed resource study this month and determined it could go ahead with the A330 enhancement, overcoming concerns that it may stretch its engineering capabilities too far. Airbus has already said it's talking with Rolls-Royce Plc, General Electric Co. and Pratt & Whitney about incremental improvements to the engines on the A330.
"Airframe makers always believe you can never have enough range, and they've largely been proved right," said Paul Sheridan, the head of consultancy Asia at Ascend Worldwide Ltd., an aviation advisory company in London.
Airbus is working to boost production of its A330 to 11 a month from 9.5, as airlines buy more of the aircraft partly because Boeing Co. was late with its competing 787 Dreamliner. Airbus and Boeing have both announced improved versions of their best-selling single-aisle aircraft to make them more fuel efficient, and Airbus is also extending the range of its A321 jets with so-called sharklets that sit on the end of the wings.
Airbus, based in Toulouse in southern France, declined to comment.
Boosting the maximum takeoff weight to 240 tons from 238 would allow airlines to accommodate more fuel or passengers and let them book additional revenue from more seats or new destinations. AirAsia X, the long-haul arm of Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia Bhd., is one airline interested in such a plane, as it would allow direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Paris, Chief Executive Officer Tony Fernandes said in May.
Airbus wants to maintain the momentum of the A330 after the Boeing Dreamliner entered service. The U.S. company is studying plans to extend the 787 family with another version, the 787-10. Airbus has won 1,199 orders for the A330, and delivered 871. The A350-900, seating 300 passengers instead of about 250 on an A330, is scheduled to enter service by mid 2014.
A330 customers include AirAsia X, Korean Air, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, a unit of Air France KLM Group, Deutsche Lufthansa and Iberia, a unit of IAG International.