(Adds lessor’s demand forecast, background)
DOHA, June 1 (Reuters) - U.S. leasing company Air Lease Corp is interested in a possible upgraded version of European planemaker Airbus Group’s A330 passenger jet, a senior company executive said on Sunday.
“Yes we are interested in that airplane,” President and Chief Operating Officer John Plueger told Reuters on the sidelines of an IATA airline industry meeting in Doha.
Airbus has not decided whether to go ahead with the re-engined version of its most popular wide-body model amid an ongoing internal debate about whether to continue to offer it with more than one choice of engine, industry sources have said.
Plueger and other industry executives said the price of the aircraft would be a decisive factor in the success of the “A330neo”, as Airbus seeks to overcome the lower operating costs of the newer Boeing 787-10 with lower up-front ownership costs.
The choice of engines could also determine the popularity of the revamp, with airlines typically pushing for competition.
The decision on whether to offer one choice of engines, most likely from Britain’s Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC, or two, which would also include General Electric Co, depends chiefly on how many airplanes Airbus and its suppliers believe they can sell.
Engine makers are unwilling to invest in a new or modified engine unless they see enough volume to recoup investments of several hundred million dollars for even simple upgrades.
Air Lease Corp Chairman and Chief Executive Steven Udvar-Hazy told Reuters he saw a potential market for between 1,100 and 1,200 re-engined A330 aircraft, a figure that most industry analysts say would support a choice of two engine types.
But in an interview on May 23, Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders gave a more cautious assessment, saying demand for the plane could be counted in “hundreds.” (Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Praveen Menon and Marguerita Choy)