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Oct 11, 2017

Airbus comes under criminal probe and A330 NEO order pressures

Airbus warns its people of impending fallout over corruption claims and launch customer for A330NEO says it might take A350s instead

Awaiting its new generation Rolls-Royce engines, the first A330-900

The curse of ‘interesting times’ is visiting Airbus over bribery and corruption claims and separately, buyer indecision which might benefit its A350 program but at some cost to the A330 NEO line.

German public prosecutors are reported as saying charges will be pressed specifically in relation to alleged breaches of the law in the sale of Eurofighter jets to Austria.

The CEO of Airbus, Tom Enders, has written to all employees about the potentially serious outcomes of this and other legal matters and urged them to be on guard against false information.

In a totally unrelated matter, which may have net benefits for Airbus, the chief executive of the Air Asia Group, Tony Fernandes, says its long haul franchise, AirAsiaX, is considering replacing its entire  type launch order for 66 of the A330-900 NEO version of the wide-body twin engined jet with A350s instead.

AirAsiaX already has an order for 10 A350-900s. Mr Fernandes campaigned vigorously over several years to persuade Airbus to overcome its initial reluctance to build a new engine option, higher technology version of the A330-300s that support its higher capacity network in place of the A350, which at the time was considered by Air Asia to be too large for its needs.

Times, and growth, have overtaken that assessment. Mr Fernandes has also referred to possibly choosing Boeing 787s, in a move some observers see as designed to assist Airbus to see the merit of returning to the original Airbus position (which he had opposed in 2013) of taking all A350s in the first place.

In short, it seems the customer is always right, and while such a change will remove sales from the A330 NEO line up, A350 sales are more valuable to Airbus.

The A330-900 is a more fuel efficient and longer flying alternative to the A330-300, which is the leading medium capacity wide-body flown by Asia-Pacific carriers. It is being readied for its first flight, while a slower selling A330-800 model is also under final assembly and being offered as a new technology version of the A330-200.

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