Richard Albrecht, a former executive vice president of Boeing, said that “17 years of incubation is enough time to give birth to a commercial company,'' adding in that Airbus should “stand or fall” by themselves, rather than relying on government subsidies.

The president of McDonnell Douglas’ commercial aircraft division James Worsham noted that Airbus offered the two wide-bodies “$10 million to $15 million cheaper” compared to the formerly Long Beach-based aircraft manufacturer. At the time, McDonnell Douglas was developing the MD-11, a DC-10 derivative. “Even though the development costs for the 330 and 340 will be something like $4 billion,'' Worsham continued, as the estimated that the cost of developing the MD-11 was around $500 million, reported the New York Times.

In March 1987, Air Inter became the first customer to sign up for the jet. Most importantly, Airbus managed to convince a United States-based carrier, Northwest Airlines. In April of the same year, the airline signed up for 20 A340s and 10 A330 options, a contract worth more than $2.5 billion, according to a report by Reuters. Northwest Airlines canceled the A340s, but signed up for the A330s: in total, before its merger into Delta Air Lines, the carrier operated 32 A330 aircraft.

Continued innovation

In October 1993, a few months before its first commercial flight, the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA, a predecessor to European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) jointly certified the aircraft, also an industry first.

And finally, on January 17, 1994, Air Inter’s Airbus A330 departed on the first-ever commercial flight of the type between Paris Orly Airport (ORY) and Marseille Provence Airport (MRS).

The Airbus A330 production is still alive and kicking, despite rumors of it slowing down. Airbus’ Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer said on January 15, 2020, that he sees no need to cut the production rates of the jet, as the company sees sufficient demand for the wide-body, including the newest version of the A330, the A330neo.

As of December 31, 2019, the European manufacturer has 331 undelivered A330 orders, according to its Orders and Deliveries file. In total, there are 1443 aircraft still operated, while 1492 were produced since the beginning of production. Its bigger brother, the A340, had much less success, as Airbus ceased the production of the quad engine jet in 2011.

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Airbus was competing with Boeing, McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed’s TriStar only in short and mid-hauls until 1993.