Airbus expands Tianjin assembly line amid growing focus on Chinese market
Published: Nov 04, 2021 08:34 PM
The A320 assembly line of Airbus in North China's Tianjin Municipality Photo: Courtesy of Airbus

The A320 assembly line of Airbus in North China's Tianjin Municipality Photo: Courtesy of Airbus

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus on Thursday announced that it plans to expand the capability of its final assembly line in North China's Tianjin, broadening the current single-aisle A320 family series to A321 production, underscoring the company's growing focus on cooperating with China's aviation industry. 

The conversion work will start in July 2022, and the first aircraft is expected to be delivered in the fourth quarter, Michel Tran Van, chief operating officer of Airbus China, said on Thursday. 

The single-aisle A320 family includes the A319, A320 and A321, of which A321 is the biggest model.

Although the manufacturer has not given an exact production rate for the A321, Tran Van said that global demand for the A321 accounts for more than half of the single-aisle planes in use, and market demand is strong. 

Inaugurated in 2008, the Airbus A320 final assembly line in Tianjin is the first Airbus commercial aircraft assembly line outside Europe. It's also the third single-aisle assembly line for Airbus after Toulouse, France and Hamburg, Germany. 

The aircraft maker has delivered more than 540 planes of the A320 family from its final assembly line in Tianjin to Chinese airlines and other carriers in Asia.

The production capacity for the single-aisle A320 series is 45 per month, and that's expected to rise to 65 by 2022, according to Airbus.

The expansion is not limited to the assembly line. It includes the supply chain, which is more important, Tran Van said.

The good news is that local suppliers in China have started to sell products to the world, and China's supply chain is expanding, shrugging off the epidemic's pressure, he said. 

Xu Gang, CEO of Airbus China, said in an earlier interview with the Global Times that although the epidemic has caused severe damage to the global aviation industry, the country's effective control of the epidemic and the rapid recovery of China's domestic aviation industry have given Airbus great confidence

In June, Airbus said its local partner had started the fuselage-equipping project of the A320 family aircraft in Tianjin, and the first China-equipped fuselage has been delivered in the third quarter of this year.

About 200 suppliers in China support almost all of the Airbus commercial aircraft program production work covering all life cycles of these aircraft. Airbus' industrial annual spending on its commercial aircraft business in China was about $1 billion in 2020, representing an increase of almost 60 percent compared to 2016 levels.

However, Tran Van said Airbus faces logistics bottlenecks and delays, and it is working with global suppliers to adjust the transport cycle.

China's domestic air travel market is slowly recovering from the pandemic. There were 353 million trips in the first three quarters of this year, which reached 69.3 percent of the level recorded at the same time of 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.