The Airbus A330 has been a popular aircraft family around the world, clocking up orders from more than 120 different operators since its launch in 1994. Across the family, more than 1,800 A330s have been sold, and last year the type could be seen at more than 400 airports around the world. But which airlines fly the largest fleets? Let’s find out.
It’s come a long way in 26 years. Photo: Getty ImagesFor the purposes of our list, we won’t be considering government orders, executive or private jets, or leasing firms. Figures are correct according to Airbus order and delivery data as of 31st November 2020.
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Turkish is the biggest
By far the biggest operator of the A330 is Turkish Airlines. It sports a fleet of 67 of the type, the vast majority of which are the A330-300, with 39 aircraft. It also has 18 A330-200 and 10 A330-200F.
Turkish Airlines remains the biggest operator of the A330. Photo: AirbusTurkish Airlines received its first A330-200 in December 2005. It arrived in tandem with the second of the type, configured to fly 18 business class and 232 economy class passengers. Both of these 15 year old aircraft are still in operation for the airline.
The youngest A330s in the Turkish fleet are a couple of cargo A330-200Fs. These were delivered in 2017 and 2016, making them 3.9 and 4.3 years old. The youngest passenger A330 is TC-LNG, which arrived in June 2016 and is called Mersin.
Chinese airlines fly lots of A330s
The biggest orderer of the A330 in Asia is China Eastern Airlines. This airline has, over the years, ordered no less than 66 of the family, taking delivery of all 66. All of the aircraft are the older ceo versions, with an even split between the A330-300 and the A330-200.
China Eastern had the biggest order, but is no longer the biggest Asian operator. Photo: AirbusHowever, China Eastern has now retired some of the older widebodies, with three -200s and nine -300s already left the fleet. All remain in operation as relatively young airframes, going to operators including Shanghai Airlines, Thai AirAsia X and Air Transat. That leaves China Eastern with a total of 54 A330s.
Air China is now the biggest Asian operator, with 58. Photo: AirbusThat makes the currently largest Asian operator to be Air China, with a total fleet of 58. 30 of these are the -200 accompanied by 28 of the -300. Air China has not retired any of the A330s yet, with some just a few years old. However, one had to leave the fleet in August 2019 after a fire occurred in the forward cargo hold, burning through the cabin floor and eventually through the top of the fuselage.
Air China Airbus A330-300 (B-5859, built 2014) was seriously damaged in spreading cargo hold fire while parked at the gate at Beijing-Intl AP (ZBAA) after arrival from Singapore on flight #CA976. Heat and flames eventually made their way through the fuselage. @ChinaAvReview pic.twitter.com/BsovduLgxX
— JACDEC (@JacdecNew) August 27, 2019
Coming in third place for the most A330s in Asia is China Southern, operating a total fleet of 50 of the type. These are split between 16 A330-200s and 34 A330-300s. Like China Eastern, some of these aircraft have already headed to retirement as they pass their 10th birthdays. So far two -200s and seven -300s have exited the fleet, leaving it with a total of 41.
Other Asian airlines with significant fleets include Cathay Pacific with 43, Hainan with 34, Korean with 29 and Garuda with 27.
Not much traction in the USA
The Airbus A330 has been largely overlooked in the States in favor of homegrown Boeing widebodies. Competing with the 767 and later the 787 has seen Airbus’ A330 with few takers across the pond. Nevertheless, there is one airline that bucks the trend.
Delta Air Lines flies a fleet of 46 A330 family aircraft. These are divided between 11 A330-200, 31 A330-300 and eight of the shiny new A330-900neo.
Delta has been a significant customer of the A330 in the US. Photo: Delta Air LinesAside from Delta, the only other airline with a fleet of A330s in the US is Hawaiian Airlines. It took delivery of its first A330-200 in April 2010, and now has a fleet of 24 of the type. They’re the perfect solution to hopping across from the mainland with sun-seeking passengers on board.
This wasn’t always the case, however, as US Airways operated a number of the Airbus planes. It had 15 -200s and nine -300s for a fleet of 24. All these went to American Airlines when the pair merged in 2013, which wasn’t a great fit with American’s Boeing-heavy widebody fleet. Very early in the crisis of 2020, American took steps to shed the Airbus planes, removing all 24 from the fleet and placing them in deep storage.
American’s A330s were retired with the start of the 2020 crisis. Photo: American AirlinesWhere are all the neos?
Given the success of the A330 program, it was no big surprise that Airbus launched a ‘neo’ or New Engine Option variant in 2014. With a new engine, new SpaceFlex interior and a 14% fuel burn reduction per seat, it was what the market was crying out for. The first A330-900neo took flight in October 2017, entering service with TAP Portugal in December 2018.
TAP was the launch customer of the A330neo, and remains its biggest operator. Photo: AirbusNow, the neo version of the popular widebody can be found with 12 operators worldwide. The biggest of these is launch customer TAP Portugal. Since its first delivery, a further 18 of the type have arrived in Lisbon, taking its total fleet to 19. Airbus order books show a further two are set to arrive with the airline.
Delta is the second largest operator of the A330-900neo with eight in the fleet. Its first arrived in May 2019, and has been followed up with regular deliveries every couple of months. Delta has a sizeable order in with Airbus for more, with 28 more due to be delivered in the coming years.
AirAsia X is set to become the biggest operator of the A330neo. Photo: AirbusAll this is set to change in the future, however, as many airlines have significant orders for the A330neo in with Airbus. The biggest of these is AirAsia X, which has ordered up 78 A330-900neo. Just two are in operation today.
Cebu Pacific is looking forward to the arrival of 16 neo widebodies, Iran Air has pledged to buy 28, and nine more are set to join Garuda Indonesia’s existing fleet of three.
Cebu Pacific will operate an all-economy A330-900neo. Photo: AirbusThe smaller A330-800neo has seen less interest, with orders only from three customers. Kuwait Airways has orders in for eight, with two delivered. Uganda Airlines is expecting its first imminently, and Air Greenland will be getting just one A330-800 to replace its aging A330-200.
Have you flown the A330? What do you think of it? Let us know in the comments.