By Lei Yan
Airbus Eyes Expanding Business in China
On Dec. 20, Airbus operated the first dual-test flight in China above its Tianjin plant. Two Airbus A320neos ordered by Juneyao Airlines and Spring Airlines conducted their test flights at the same time. The operation was supported by Beijing and Tianjin air traffic control centers.
Airbus Tianjin is expected to welcome more soon-to-be-delivered aircraft. A new delivery center for Airbus A330 and Airbus A350 XWBs opened in 2021, and capacity expansions on the Airbus A320 series production line.
Airbus is advancing on multiple fronts to increase its presence in China. Last week, on Dec. 13, during the 8th China-France High-Level Economic and Financial Dialogue, leaders from both countries agreed to accelerate the certification of the ATR 72-600. The aircraft is manufactured by the joint venture of Airbus and Aeritalia, an Italian aircraft manufacturer. Eyeing China’s vest regional jet market, the ATR 72 is a competitor in the 70-seat-level market.
Last month, Airbus announced its Tianjin plant would expand and add Airbus A321 production capability. The expansion will complete during the third quarter of 2022. Orders for the A321neo comprise more than half of all orders for A320neo series aircraft.
Airbus Tianjin is the first Airbus aircraft assembly line outside of Europe, and it is also the first modern mainline aircraft assembly line in China. So far, the plant delivered over 500 aircraft to airlines based in the region.
In 2017, Airbus Tianjin constructed a new finishing center for A330s and A350s, and the finishing center expanded Airbus’s deliver-to-door service for Chinese customers into its wide-body aircraft portfolios.
The Chinese market is going to be one of the driving forces of growth in the coming decades. Boeing projects China will need 8,700 new aircraft in the next 20 years. Airbus offered a similar prediction of 7,400 new jets demands from China in the next 20 years. The majority of those jets will be single-aisle jets such as Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320neo.
As Airbus swiftly makes its move to occupy more market shares in China, Boeing is also setting up its finishing facility in Zhoushan, China, delivering 737max to customers. However, since the opening of the Zhoushan delivery center, merely 2 jets were delivered to customers before the fatal crashes of the aircraft that led to the global grounding of 737max. Chinese regulators recently reissued airworthiness certification to Boeing 737max, laying the groundwork for the aircraft to take the sky again before Chinese New Year.
At the same time, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is suffering from multiple issues with its engines, fuselage, and quality of some components. Boeing halted all deliveries of its Dreamliner until the second quarter of 2022.
Airbus is also eyeing the sizable wide-body aircraft markets in the Asia Pacific area. By leveraging its existing facilities to deliver A350s to customers’ doors, Airbus saves millions in logistics for its Chinese customers, who still hold a massive amount of orders of Airbus jets. before the pandemic, Airbus delivered multiple A330s in Tianjin Finishing Center, and the first Airbus A350 was delivered to China Eastern in July 2022.