Airbus says managing A330 order book beyond 2016 more challenging

PARIS Fri May 2, 2014 11:37am EDT

PARIS May 2 (Reuters) - Airbus has warned it faces increased challenges in managing the order book for its A330 wide-body jet beyond 2016, highlighting the stakes involved as the European planemaker considers an engine revamp for its most profitable long-distance jet.

The 20-year-old design has enjoyed a rebound in sales due in part to delays to the rival Boeing 787 in recent years, but that is now winding down as Boeing catches up with deliveries of the 787 Dreamliner and Airbus prepares to bring out its own A350.

In its annual report, parent Airbus Group said it is experiencing increased challenges beyond 2016, a period when industry sources have said it faces an abrupt drop in A330 deliveries unless it can generate new orders.

"The long-range programme (A330) presents no new challenges. However, managing the order book beyond 2016 becomes more challenging due to competition from A350 XWB and Boeing 787," the document said.

A spokesman for Airbus, the commercial planemaking unit of Airbus Group, formerly known as EADS, said the A330 remained well supported.

"The market understands that we are investing in the A330 family, offering two new variants optimised for longer range and for regional operations, available as early as 2015," he said.

A decision on whether to go ahead with a third and more costly enhancement involving new engines is expected in the second half of the year, but there has been limited speculation that it could come as early as July's Farnborough Airshow. (Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by James Regan)