Airbus reached a critical milestone in the launch of its A330neo Thursday, completing the aircraft’s first-ever flight over France . According to USA Today , the A330-900neo departed Toulouse-Blagnac International Airport shortly before 10 a.m. local time and flew for several hours over southern France before landing without incident.
The A330neo is the next generation model of Airbus’ successful A330 . However, the new design can fly farther and more efficiently compared to the original, thanks to improved engines and aerodynamics. The widebody, long-distance jet can also hold more passengers than its predecessor. The smaller A330-800neo will seat fewer passengers than the -900neo but will be able to fly about 1,000 miles farther. The -800neo is expected to make its first flight sometime in the first half of next year.
Future passengers flying on the A330neo will notice larger overhead storage bins, LED lighting and upgraded in-flight entertainment. Other highlights aboard the A330neo include better lavatory options and the A330’s popular 2-4-2 economy layout. The aircraft is scheduled to enter service in 2018. In the meantime, a pair of new -900neo planes will join the original in completing test operations to achieve eventual certification. Airbus currently has 212 firm orders for the A330neo family. The company is hoping to mimic the success of its smaller A320neo, which was first delivered in January 2016. According to Reuters , Airbus Chief Operating Officer, Fabrice Bregier said the manufacturer expected to deliver around 200 A320neo aircraft this year. READ MORE: Why Airbus Should Keep Making the A380 In July, Delta Air Lines took its first delivery of the Airbus A350 , which will replace its fleet of Boeing 747-400 aircraft and improve the carrier’s operating cost per seat by as much as 20 percent. Thursday’s successful test flight comes three days after the Airbus acquired a majority stake in Bombardier’s C Series passenger jet business.