LARA editor Mark Thomas summarises the latest happenings across the low-fare and regional aviation industry.

It’s been a big week for TAP Air Portugal, which became a global launch operator as it said ‘Bemvido’ to the first of 21 shiny new Airbus A330-900neo aircraft it received at a delivery ceremony in Toulouse, France.

Powered by Rolls-Royce’s Trent 7000 engines, the fuel-efficient widebody (leased to the flag carrier via Avolon) and its siblings will mostly be deployed on routes from Portugal to the Americas and Africa as the airline continues to expand its long-haul network. TAP has gone all-in with Airbus on its current 72-strong fleet, including recently delivered A320neo and A321neo aircraft, and also has the A321LR coming in 2019.

The combination of aircraft will enable the airline to cover not only the long-haul but also its regional routes, a key factor for its CEO, Antonoaldo Neves. TAP will receive a further 19 A330-900neos by the end of next year, and Airbus says that represents an important trend – commonality. Hamilton Crawford, head of A330 marketing, said that for the short- to medium-haul market in 2017 Airbus’ market share for the A321 and A330 had risen to 62% (from 42% in 2008). “We know 50 airlines operate the A321 and A330 together, and around 30 operate them on the same routes. This is Airbus commonality in action.”

TAP’s fleet will include both the A321s and A330s, in addition to its A320neos.

The Portuguese airline’s belief in the A330neo’s capabilities is strong affirmation for Airbus, which after experiencing relatively slow sales for the aircraft since its launch in 2014 has seen some welcome momentum in recent months. It now has 242 firm orders in place.

This includes long-haul low-fare carrier AirAsia X confirming at the Farnborough Airshow in July it was adding another 34 to its existing order for 66, while Delta Air Lines of the US ordered another 10 earlier this month, with its first one due to be delivered in April next year. It now has 35 in total on firm order.

The uptick in activity for the A330neo is an early Xmas present for the European manufacturer, and LARA hears rumours that it will confirm another extra gift in the next few weeks.

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