Chinese carriers go on Airbus buying spree

Chinese carriers go on Airbus buying spree

European planemaker bags almost 300 orders from four airlines, some to replace Boeing 737 Max

As of May this year, a total of 8,086 A320neo family aircraft had been ordered by more than 130 customers worldwide, with 2,259 delivered, according to statistics from Airbus. (Airbus Photo)
As of May this year, a total of 8,086 A320neo family aircraft had been ordered by more than 130 customers worldwide, with 2,259 delivered, according to statistics from Airbus. (Airbus Photo)

Airbus has won one of its biggest ever single-day hauls, selling almost 300 airliners worth more than $37 billion to four Chinese airlines in a coup for the European manufacturer in its tussle with Boeing for dominance in Asia’s largest economy.

China Eastern Airlines will buy 100 A320neo narrow-body jets, while Air China will take 64 jets, with its Shenzhen Airlines subsidiary acquiring 32 more, according to separate company filings on Friday. China Southern Airlines said earlier it would buy 96 A320neos, as well as leasing additional planes.

China is a key market for Airbus and its US rival Boeing, and both have worked to boost their presence there. The orders come at a time of rising political tensions between Washington and Beijing.

While travel in the country remains subdued amid Covid-related restrictions, jet orders must be made years in advance given the limited capacity of the manufacturers.

The announcements represent the first major jetliner orders by Chinese carriers in about three years. Boeing has historically counted China Southern as its biggest customer in the country. But the airline in May removed more than 100 of the US company’s 737 Max jets from its near-term fleet plans, citing uncertainty over deliveries.

Airbus will deliver the aircraft to China Southern from 2024 to 2027, according to a stock exchange filing on Friday. The carrier will separately lease 19 A320neos. Handovers to Air China will span 2023 to 2027 and those to Shenzhen Airlines 2024 to 2026.

China Southern previously outlined plans to rapidly expand its 737 Max fleet, saying in in March that 39 were due this year, building toward a total of 103 deliveries through 2024.

None of China’s other state-owned carriers have said whether they might resume taking the Max once it is officially back in service. China was the first to ground the plane following fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

Since the Max grounding, Airbus has surged ahead of Boeing in grabbing orders and market share for narrow-body jets, even as the European planemaker struggles with ramping up production to meet surging demand. Last month, chief executive officer Guillaume Faury said a delayed arrival of engines meant Airbus was unable to deliver otherwise fully built jets.

To meet its growing backlog, Airbus is pushing ahead with ambitious plans to ramp up production of its bestselling A320 family of jets to 75 a month by 2025 as it looks to widen its lead. the fast-growing Indian budget carrier IndiGo is the world’s largest customer for A320neos, having ordered 730 of those jets.

At the end of 2021, China Southern — the country’s largest airline — had a fleet of 399 Boeing narrow-bodies, according to its latest annual report. It also had 334 Airbus SEA320 series narrow-body jets at the end of last year.

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