Boeing: The Airbus A330neo A Real Competitor For The Boeing 787? (Part 1)

| About: The Boeing (BA)


Commonality to set Airbus A330neo orders higher.

Fuel burn calculations (detailed calculations to be found in Part 4-5) show favorable position for the Boeing 787.

Boeing 787 has had its problems but will generate cash on the longer term.

In one of my previous articles I looked at the upcoming competition between the Airbus (OTCPK:EADSF) A350-800 and the Boeing (NYSE:BA) 787-9. During the Farnborough Airshow, Airbus announced the Airbus A330neo in favor of the Airbus A350-800, therefore, it is meaningful to see how the A330neo compares to the 787.

This article is the first of three that will compare the brand new Boeing 787 and the Airbus A330neo, which is based on a 3-decade old concept.

One of the things that should be kept in mind is that the Airbus A350-800 was meant to compete with the Boeing 787-9 (both in three-class configuration), while the Airbus A330-900neo seems to be competing with the 787-8 (when looking at the two-class configuration).

Since configurations vary per airline, for some airlines it is more suitable to compare the -900neo to the Boeing 787-9 and the -800neo to the Boeing 787-8. In this article, I will look at the dense seating configuration, therefore, it is more appropriate to compare the Boeing 787-8 with the Airbus A330-900neo.

With the introduction of the A330neo, Airbus brought two airplanes to the market:

  1. The A330-800neo to replace the A330-200 and the A350-800 and compete with the 787-8,
  2. The A330-900neo to compete with the Boeing 787-8 and Boeing 787-9 (depending on seat configuration).

Figure 1: Payload vs. Range Diagram for the Airbus A330neo and Boeing 787 (Source: Dhierin-Perkash Bechai)

Note: The ranges for the Airbus A350-800 and Boeing 787 have been scaled to account for the fact that data for two-class configuration was not available and information for the three-class configuration had to be used.

As can be seen in the diagram, the A330-800neo seems to be closer to the Boeing 787-8 than the -900neo, but taking into account that airlines try to transport as many passengers as possible it is reasonable to compare the -900neo and the 787-8 (for a two-class configuration). Additionally the A350-800 seems to be closer to the 787-8 than to the 787-9, but that is an implication of the two-class configuration. In a two-class configuration, the Boeing 787-9 is able to transport more passengers relative to the two-class configuration of the Airbus A350-800. Since Airbus seems to be targeting low(er) cost carriers with the A330neo, the assumption of looking at two-class configurations (and even denser configurations) is a valid one.

In this article, I will compare the Airbus A330-900neo with the Boeing 787-8. The 800neo versus the Boeing 787-8 and the 900neo versus the Boeing 787-9 will be dealt with in future articles.

The table below already shows some differences between the Boeing 787-8 and the Airbus A330-900neo:


Boeing 787-8

Airbus A330-900neo


Passengers [two-class] [-]




LD3* [-]




Range [km]**




Fuel [L]




Fuel/ 100 passenger-kilometer ***




MTOW [t]




OEW [t]****




* The LD3 capacity for the Airbus A330-300 has been used

** Range in two-class configuration is not known for the Boeing 787-8

*** Is not a measure of fuel consumption

**** OEW for the Airbus A330-900neo has been assumed to be the same as for the A330-300.

Sources: Fact Sheet Boeing 787, Dimensions & Key Data Airbus A330-300, Launch Presentation Airbus A330neo

The fuel/100 passenger-kilometer number can be calculated using 2 (estimation) methods:

  1. Using the actual information from three-class configuration gives: 280 passengers and a range of 14500 km. This gives a value of 3.11 L/100 passenger kilometer, which is 25% lower than on the A330-900neo.
  2. Scaling the range down by using logarithmic scaling gives: 310 passengers and a range of 12941 km. This results in a 'fuel efficiency' value of 3.15 L/100 passenger kilometer, which is 24% lower than on the A330-900neo.

The Airbus A330-900neo seems to be able to transport equal number of passengers and more cargo, but needs more fuel to transport over a smaller distance and requires a heavier airframe. Both ways to estimate the 'fuel efficiency' show a better value for the Boeing 787.

Seating configurations

One of the things Airbus has been claiming is better passenger comfort. So it is meaningful to look whether the A330neo really offers better passenger comfort.

The seats on the Airbus A330neo will have a width of 18 inches, compared to 17.3 inches on the Boeing 787. So the Airbus A330 indeed seems to be having a more comfortable seat width.

Another claim by Airbus for better passenger comfort is the use of 9 seats abreast on the 787 and 8 seats abreast on the Airbus A330neo. Although 8 seats abreast is common for the Airbus A330, one can assume that low cost carriers will configure the A330neo in a 9 seat abreast configuration, which means passenger comfort on the Boeing 787-8 might be better.

I am going to implement some math in this article, since I have been receiving requests to come up with numbers. It should be noted that neither Airbus nor Boeing are providing in-depth data sheets or calculations. So I will apply very simple formulas to come up with some numerical values. Therefore, the results will not be 100% accurate, but can give some valuable insight. Since not all numerical values are known, estimations and statistical data will be used for some values that are still unknown. In order to start preliminary calculations, I will first look at the general characteristics of the engine.

Engine information

The table below shows the general characteristics of the General Genx-1B70 (used on the Boeing 787-8) and the Rolls Royce Trent 7000 (used on the Airbus A330-900neo).


Boeing 787-8

Airbus A330-900neo


General Genx-1B70

Trent 7000


Thrust [kN]




SFC [lb/hr/lbf]*




Fan diameter [inches]




Bypass ratio [-]




Overall pressure ratio [-]




Engine mass [kg]




Thrust-to-weight ratio [-]




* SFC (Specific Fuel Consumption) value(s) for the 787-8 have been requested from Boeing to better reflect the current fuel consumption, but Boeing considers this data proprietary. Therefore, the SFC values from a mathematical model have been used. The SFC value for the Trent 7000 has been calculated using data numbers provided on the Rolls Royce website.

Sources: Data Sheet Genx, Information Genx series, 787 mathematical model, Rolls Royce website, Information Trent series

The table above shows that the engines are comparable.

Preliminary calculations

The preliminary calculations will deal with the fuel consumed on a 4000 nm trip. In order to come to a result, various formulas will be used and assumptions will be made if required data is not available.

The following weight fractions for the mission profile will be used:

Engine Start


Take off



Landing, taxi, shutdown







Source: Airplane Design by Jan Roskam

The weight fraction for the cruise flight has to be calculated with the formula below. Since most fuel is consumed during cruise flight, no statistical data can be used to calculate the weight fraction for the cruise.

Plugging in the values from the table below gives a weight fraction of 0.816.


Boeing 787-8

Vcruise [m/s]


L/D [-]


Cj [kg/N*s] (SFC)


R [m]


Sources: Fact Sheet Boeing 787

The fuel consumed on a trip can be calculated using the following formula

The mass fuel fraction (mff) is the product of all weight fractions:

The take-off mass (MTO) can be calculated by adding the payload (assumed to be 100 kg/passenger), the empty weight and the consumed fuel:

Solving this equation leads to a take-off mass of 194651 kg. The fuel mass (MF) then becomes 45661 kg. Assuming a density of 0.81 kg per liter yields a quantity of 56359 L.

Dividing 56359 L by the number of passengers (310) and the range (7408 km) and multiplying this by 100 gives 2.454 L per 100 passenger-kilometer.

For the A330-900neo these calculations are somewhat more difficult or uncertain, since important values such as the Operational Empty Weight, L/D ratio and cruise speed are not known.

The L/D ratio is assumed to be 20, the cruise speed is 242 m/s (taken from the A330-300) and for the Operational Empty Mass a value of 124500 kg will be assumed.


Airbus A330-900neo

Vcruise [m/s]


L/D [-]


Cj [kg/N*s] (SFC)


R [m]


Sources: Dimensions & Key Data Airbus A330-300, Launch Presentation Airbus A330neo

Following the same procedure for the A330-900neo as for the Boeing 787-8 gives a fuel mass of 50138 kg or 61899 liters of kerosene. Again dividing by the number of passengers (310), the range (7408 km) and multiplying by 100 gives the fuel per 100 passenger-kilometer value, which in this case is 2.695 L per 100 passenger-kilometer.

Plotting these values for various trip distances gives the following graph:

Figure 2: Fuel consumption numbers for the Boeing 787-8 vs. Airbus A330-900neo (Source: Dhierin-Perkash Bechai)

The Boeing 787-8 has a fuel consumption that is 8.6%-10.6% lower than on the Airbus A330-900neo.

The Boeing 787-9 seems to have a fuel consumption that is 0.25 L/100 passenger-kilometer lower than on the Airbus A330-900neo.


Looking at the preliminary calculations and the general specifications, the fuel efficiency numbers for the Boeing 787-8 are far better than for the Airbus A330-900neo. If the Boeing 787-8 is being configured for short/medium haul routes it can carry 317 passengers instead of 310, resulting in an advantage of 11% on a 3000 nm trip.

Additionally, Airbus compares the two-class configuration of the Airbus A330-900neo to the 2-class configuration of the Boeing 787-9, claiming 304 seats for the Boeing 787-9. This does not seem to be a valid assumption since the 787-9 can transport up to 360 passengers in 2-class configuration. Therefore, I used this article to compare the Boeing 787-8 and Airbus A330-900neo, since both aircraft transport equal number of passengers in two-class configuration.

Airbus claimed comparable fuel burn numbers and the ability to transport more passengers for the Airbus A330-900neo. Looking at the numbers, this does not seem to be the case and one should wonder whether the comparison Airbus made when launching the A330neo is a valid one.

Although the Airbus A330neo is not a bad airplane, I don't think it will be able to actively compete with the Boeing 787. Given the 95% part commonality between the A330 and the neo, the A330neo might be a suitable airplane for airlines that already have an active A330 fleet.

Even with problems and delays the Boeing 787 had, I think Boeing does have a strong member in the medium-haul flight segment.

In my next article, I will compare the Boeing 787-9 and the Airbus A330-900neo.

As pointed out by one of the readers some of the assumptions I made don't lead to a proper comparison between the Dreamliner and the Airbus A330neo. Therefore I will be adding a part 4 and part 5 to this series to make a proper comparison and explain them.

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