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According to Wikipedia, Airbus is studying a new A350 Regional that effectively is a think that I suggested some time ago when I asked "Why is the A330neo more efficient than the A350 on shorter routes".

In that question I said:

why for shorter routes A330neo is more efficient than A350? Could not be enough to have an 350 with lower fuel capacity (in case shorter length) and maybe reduced engine power (the opposite of higher power in A350-1000) thanks to reduced weight?

Now, it seems that with this model Airbus is creating a more evident overlap in its proposal to market for shorter routes because, as written in A330neo Wikipedia page, is written:

A330neo enables profitability on shorter ranges where the longer-range A350 and Boeing 787 aren't optimized.

So what reasons could push a customer to choose to A330-Neo or A350 Regional on shorter routes?

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This probably just boils down to the economics of the route. An aircraft for a route is chosen based on more factors than just fuel efficiency. Airlines have to weigh in other factors like:

  • Number of landing/take-off slots available at the airport
    • This is because an airport can only support so much traffic. It may be more economic to fly a larger aircraft with more seats than multiple flights.
  • Cost of gates/landing fees, etc
    • Airports make money by charging per-passenger and per-aircraft fees. If an aircraft is parked at a gate, it is costing the operator to be there, so the more aircraft the more expensive it gets. Airports may charge depending on the size of the aircraft as well.
  • If the airport is equipped to handle an aircraft of that size. Some regional airports can't handle larger aircraft (either from a gate/facility perspective or a runway/taxiway surface one).
  • How many passengers need to travel that route on a daily/weekly basis
  • Regional fuel costs
  • Training/currency requirements for pilots and how easy it is to move between them
    • If going from the A320 to the A330 is a simple course vs the A350 being a whole new endorsement, they may choose the A330 to be able to have higher utilization of the existing pilots vs having specialized crew.
  • Same as above except substitute mechanics, spare parts, etc. This is a major reason that Southwest only fly's 737's, short or long-haul.
  • Ability for the aircraft to service other routes.

All said and done they need to pick the aircraft that is the most economic for the intended mission and fits into the business model of the company more. Airbus isn't going to take a customer that wants the A330 and push them into an A350, it isn't like buying a car where the salesman upsells you, the customer by the time they approach Airbus for a purchase contract already knows exactly what they need. Think of it more like buying tools (where you need exactly the right tool for the job) than it is about buying a car (the Corvette is nice, but have you looked at the Prius?)...

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