Airbus Nets 68 A320 Orders in China as Market Grows

Airbus Nets 68 A320 Orders in China as Market Grows

"The orders marked a "vote of confidence in the long-term appeal of our popular A320 family," said John Leahy, Airbus' chief operating officer for customers. 

BEIJING - Three Chinese companies have ordered a total of 68 A320 aircraft, Airbus (IW 1000/52) said Wednesday as it also announced a lighter version of a wide-bodied jet aimed at emerging markets.

In deals worth more than $6.75 billion at list prices, the aircraft-leasing firm BOC Aviation ordered 25 planes, Qingdao Airlines requested 23 planes and Zhejiang Loong Airlines sought 20.

The European plane maker announced the orders in statements on the sidelines of an air show in Beijing.

Air travel is rising steadily in Asia and other emerging markets, with passenger trips in China reaching 320 million in 2012, up 9% from the year before.

"The orders marked a "vote of confidence in the long-term appeal of our popular A320 family," John Leahy, Airbus' chief operating officer for customers, said in a statement.

Separately, Airbus announced a new lighter version of its A330-300 wide-body jet which it said was aimed at high-growth markets.

"The new lower-weight A330-300 variant specially designed for regional and domestic use is Airbus' solution for markets with large populations and fast-growing, concentrated air traffic flows," Fabrice Bregier, Airbus president and CEO, said in a statement.

Bregier, visiting China for the air show, said the announcement was being made in the country "because here we see strong pent-up demand for efficient and reliable wide-body aircraft connecting mega cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou."

First Delivery by Late 2015, Early 2016

Airbus said the increased fuel efficiency from the lighter weight of about 200 tons "will result in an overall cost reduction by up to 15% compared with today's long-range A330-300 variants."

Bregier said: "It is a solution for regional flights lasting two to three hours, a plane whose cost per seat is equal to that of the A320 but which supports twice as many passengers."

Eric Chen, president of Airbus China, told a press conference the company plans to deliver the first of the new A330-300 aircraft by the end of 2015 or early 2016.

"The Chinese market has special features: concentrated airports and a large population," he added. "That's why we think this aircraft will be a popular solution to these challenges."

BOC Aviation's order for A320s includes 12 A320neos, which are designed to cut emissions and fuel consumption, while Qingdao Airlines' includes 18 neos and Zhejiang Loong Airlines' has nine.

The two latter carriers are both start-up airlines. Qingdao Airlines will begin operations next year and take delivery of the first A320s in 2016, the statement said. Zhejiang Loong will begin business this year.

Singapore-based BOC Aviation is the aircraft-leasing arm of the major state-owned Bank of China. Airbus A320s make up a core part of its fleet.

A BOC spokeswoman in Singapore said the list price for the 25 planes it ordered is $2.6 billion.

Growth in Emerging Markets

The list prices for the orders from Qingdao Airlines and Zhejiang Loong Airlines amounted to more than $4.15 billion, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

BOC Aviation had ordered another 50 A320s in January, half of them from the "neo" series, with delivery to begin next year and continue through 2019.

Air China also ordered 100 A320s in May, due to be handed over between 2014 and 2020.

Airbus has a factory in China that assembles A320-series planes.

The company predicted in its annual industry forecast on Tuesday that the Asia-Pacific would overtake Europe and North America in air traffic by 2032.

With overall growth rising 4.7% a year, the world would need another 29,000 new commercial aircraft over the next two decades, it said.

By then two-thirds of people in emerging markets would take a flight each year, compared to one in five now, Leahy said.

Julien Girault, AFP

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013

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