Boeing is now forcing the Airbus' hand of airplane building. It has successfully cornered Airbus with its two types of A350's, or known as the -900 and -1000. The 777X family will meet and beat the XWB concept by more than just hull width. It will fly, virtually everywhere.
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Airbus, maybe forced to play its NEO card once more, if by years end they don't announce any kind of A330 NEO program, they fall further behind. The problem that Airbus faces is turning out a real A330 NEO that will touch the 787 family of aircraft having a metal body with new engines. If they can't, and offer something just new, then it will have limited market appeal. Even as the A350 falls short of the technological benchmarks that Boeing has achieved with its 787. An A330 plastic version is three more years until it’s off the drawing boards, at which time Boeing will be reloading the twin aisle order book with a proven aircraft.
Airbus is in a conundrum by failing with the A350-8 as a no go. It is a multiyear set back they do not wish to discuss at this time. The A330 Avenue is in need of some street repair before people will start driving that way again. It will be difficult if not impossible to make the A330 NEO into a 787 clone or knock-off. Airbus is burning the midnight oil later into the morning with this sticking point. The A330 albeit, a good design in its day, as it further is matriculated or morph into the A350 will be metal airplane with new engines as a non-option. However, the A330 NEO cannot incorporate the 787 delivered promise and beat it. It will fall short even though development time is shortened by not achieving technological equivalence.
Here is what may happen, Airbus will use an X number on the A330 NEO and its new wings with some platic innovations plus adding the New Engine that is not an option, unless the option is ordering the old A330. It will refine the A330 taking from the A350 project lessons learned. It’s going to morph the A330 NEO half way past the old A330. It will promise superior performance over the 787.
The 787 will remain a superior aircraft as its longevity and maintenance cost efficiency will exceed everything that Airbus now offers and for the next 20 years. The strategic value of commonality from a Boeing fleet family, will make it a decision point for not having mixed fleets in one’s own operation scheme. The A330 NEO is the sign that Airbus is now firmly behind the Eight-Ball from Boeing's gamesmanship and effort.
Please read this point as it greatly supports a position of hanging on to a shrinking market retreating to a niche status of economic purchasing with less efficient offering than the 787.