A330neo Airbus Airspace display at AIX 2024

Airbus A330neo upgrade package is NIF, not NPS

Details and Design banner with text on graph paper backgroundHAMBURG — Airbus is offering a set of cabin interior changes to its A330neo, focussing on consistency in lighting and aesthetics across its families, lighter re-engineered sidewalls that also eke out 1cm more space in the cabin at shoulder level, an improved door frame lining, and the option of electro-dimmable windows.

(Of note, Airbus’ press materials cite 5mm of shoulder clearance per side; Airbus executives at the Aircraft Interiors Expo cited 8mm per side and a total of 1.6cm multiple times; an Airbus’ media representative confirms to RGN that “our engineering department has confirmed the 5mm figure” per side.)

This package, summed up as “A330 Airspace New Interior Features” (NIF) by Airbus vice president for cabin marketing Ingo Wuggetzer, is not, however, a set of wider aircraft package changes on the level of the New Production Standard (NPS) for the A350, which also brought a new MTOW, new galley options, rearranged lavatories and crew rests, and other airframe changes.

The most noticeable changes will be in the front cabin, where the visually impressive “hero light” panel above the centre of the cabin replaces overhead bins — still a controversial choice for passengers, whose bags have to go somewhere — and can be customised to an airline’s signature pattern or taken with Airbus’ standard diamonds pattern. There are also new lighting and ceiling features at doors 2, and new windows as part of a new wall lining.

Wuggetzer presents the Airbus A330neo cabin display at AIX 2024. The cabin is accented with blue LED lights and cloud like imagery

Wuggetzer highlights the hero lighting, which does however mean no overhead bins in the centre section. Image: John Walton

“We have a complete new lining on the side, and new sidewall panels, enabling electrically dimmable windows, so you can adjust them individually,” Wuggetzer said. “All the lining is about 100 kilos lighter, so it’s about weight saving — we push it here, but also we push it for more comfort, eight millimeters [sic*] more shoulder clearance on each side of the sidewall panel. So a lot more comfort, a lot more premium experience in the future, and a lot more consistent also in the widebodies with the hero light.”

* Note: As mentioned above, the actual clearance is 5mm per side. Airbus tells RGN that Wuggetzer’s quotes can be perceived as giving context and a future outlook the target is to reach up to 8mm of more shoulder space on each side in the end. The design is not yet completely finalized and Airbus “is still in the process of selecting a supplier for realization”. 

A geometric light pattern is seen on the ceiling of the aircraft display as part of the hero light, at Airbus' booth at AIX 2024

Will the hero light shine too brightly through an otherwise darkened cabin?  Its controls will need to be well designed within cabin controls. Image: John Walton

For now, 1cm (10mm) shared across the cabin can’t really be called ‘a lot more comfort’, but the new sidewall and window shrouding is impressive, if perhaps an almost trompe-l’œil perspective trick. The windows themselves are no bigger, but the effect — or perhaps in that the larger inner window is emphasised over the smaller outer window — is that they look much greater.

Close up of the window shrouding inside the A330neo mockup at AIX

The window shrouding does an impressive job of tricking the eye into thinking the windows are bigger. Image: John Walton

Elsewhere, a new doorframe lining cuts part numbers and simplifies installations, also contributing to the reduced overall weight.

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As for the electro-dimmable window, it’s similar to that on the latest A350 aircraft, Wuggetzer confirmed to RGN: “same manufacturer, same functionality, same performance. That was for us important: we always said no to that feature because it was slow for passengers and it was not dark — and you need, really, a dark window to sleep. This is what has been proven by the latest generation and that’s why we applied it now.”

Wuggetzer also confirmed to RGN that the majority of the NIF features will be available for installation in 2027, with the new door lining arriving from 2028. As usual, there will be a crossover period before the NIF package becomes standard, when airlines may choose to take up the new NIF standard or stick with the old standard, normally based on where the majority of their A350s sit in the delivery timetable.

All in all, there will be few complaints about NIF — lighter aircraft with more features is generally good aviation news, with the proviso that centre cabin bin removal up front has some detractors.

The Airbus cabin display at AIX 2024 is accented with blue LED lights and cloud like imagery

Ten years after the A330neo was introduced, Airbus is gearing up to offer new interior features from 2027. Image: John Walton

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All images credited to John Walton