Air Belgium has signed an agreement with Airbus to take delivery of two new Airbus A330neo aircraft. The airline will use the aircraft to replace two of its three remaining Airbus A340-300 aircraft currently leased from the European planemaker.
While most airlines were removing their Airbus A340s from service, even before the current situation, one airline was keen to take them. Air Belgium launched in 2018 intending to fly to Hong Kong with a fleet of four Airbus A340s. This didn’t work out, with the airline instead turning to wet lease operations before launching flights to the Caribbean.
Two A330-900s inbound
In mid-June, Simple Flying reported that Air Belgium would look to take delivery of two Airbus A330-900 aircraft. Today the news has been confirmed by the Brussels-based airline, who said that services with the first aircraft would begin from October 15th.
It’s reasonably clear that this isn’t an order for new aircraft, given the short turnaround time tied with the backlog of orders. Instead, it seems that the airline is taking white tail aircraft. The aircraft were to be delivered to Air Berlin before Rwandair was set to take them. Air Berlin ceased operations, while Rwandair scrapped its A330neo ambitions in September.
According to data from ch-aviation.com, at least one of these aircraft was such a plane. The airline is expected to take delivery of the aircraft with the serial number 1844. This plane took its first flight in Toulouse on March 7th, 2019.
What to expect from the aircraft
As mentioned, Air Belgium wants to put its first Airbus A330neo into operation from October 15th. The plane will fly from Brussels Airport to Mauritius every Tuesday and Friday. Like the airline’s Airbus A340s, the A330 will come with three cabins. This will see passengers seated in business class, premium economy, or economy.
Air Belgium will take a hit on the number of passengers it can take, as the planes only carry 265 passengers, compared to 286 on the A340-300. However, they will make gains elsewhere. According to the airline, the A330neo is 35% more efficient than previous generation aircraft.
When you factor in the drop from four to two engines, it will allow the airline to save even more money on fuel. This is the main reason many airlines phased the A340 out in the first place.