Airbus in ‘close contact’ with Chinese airlines over A220, days after major deals
Published: Jul 06, 2022 11:10 PM
An Airbus A350-900 arrives at the Baoan International Airport in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, Jan. 6, 2022. China Southern Airlines launched two new Airbus A350-900 in Shenzhen on Thursday. The new aircraft will mainly serve domestic routes between Beijing Daxing International Airport, Shanghai and Chengdu.(Photo: Xinhua)

An Airbus A350-900 arrives at the Baoan International Airport in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, Jan. 6, 2022. (Photo: Xinhua)

Days after Airbus signed major deals with Chinese airlines, disappointing its American rival, Boeing, the European plane manufacturer is seeking to further increase its footprint in the Chinese market, with an event on Monday aiming to promote the A220 for short-haul flights and vowing to tap the market potential in Western China.

The planemaker revealed that it was in close contact with Chinese airlines, especially small and medium-sized carriers, for the purchase of its 100- to 150-seat A220 aircraft, which has the highest proportion of Chinese components of all the Airbus aircraft models. 

A total of 15 Chinese suppliers have contributed to the manufacture of the A220, and the procurement value of A220s in the future is expected to account for about 40 percent of the total procurement value of Airbus in China, said Yang Xiaoyu, Airbus' head of flyable procurement in China and East Asia. 

The A220 is a supplement to regional aircraft like the domestically developed jetliner ARJ21 and regular single-aisle aircraft such as A320 and Boeing B737. So far, the A220 has received about 741 orders from more than 25 customers around the world, including Air France and Korean Air. Airbus said it is pushing forward the process with the Civil Aviation Administration of China to get the model certified as airworthy.

Airbus' latest push came after it signed deals last week with China's three biggest airlines for the sale of nearly 300 planes.

Airbus' intention to further expand in China is a great example demonstrating the promising prospects of cooperation between China and Europe, Zhao Junjie, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of European Studies, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Airbus has been present in China for several decades. As China and the Asia-Pacific region continue to show strong signs of growth, this presence is expanding rapidly. With the rapid development of its aviation and aerospace industry, China has become an important market for Airbus, as well as a strategic partner and supplier. 

Industrial cooperation between Airbus and the Chinese aviation industry dates back to 1985, when CAAC of Shanghai, now China Eastern Airlines, became the first carrier in China to operate the European consortium's aircraft. The total value of this cooperation reached $900 million in 2018, and it will continue to increase its investments in the country, according to the company.

In June, Airbus signed the Framework Agreement with Suzhou Industrial Park on the establishment of the Airbus China Research Center. The center will provide research services in advanced manufacturing, hydrogen energy infrastructure, sustainability and electrification, future cabin and new technologies, which will benefit Airbus' global operations while strengthening the company's footprint and innovation partnerships in China, according to Airbus.

Airbus China COO Michel Tran Van said in an earlier interview with Global Times that the suppliers in China have covered all life cycles, including innovation, engineering design, manufacturing, production and maintenance.

"China is the largest single-country market for Airbus' commercial aircraft. Deliveries to the China market last year represented over 20 percent of Airbus' total deliveries worldwide. As a reliable and long-term strategic partner of China, we will continue to cooperate with China's aviation industry, and we are confident in the future of the Chinese market," said George Xu, Executive Vice President of Airbus and CEO of Airbus China, in an interview earlier this year.

Airbus' expansion in the Chinese economy also poses serious competition for its American rival, Boeing. Airbus' deals last week apparently dealt a blow to US planemaker, which responded to the new contracts by saying that "geopolitical differences" are constraining its exports and calling for "productive dialogue" between Chinese and US governments. 

Boeing and China have an enduring partnership of more than 45 years. Today, more than 50 percent of all commercial jets operating in China are Boeing aircraft, and more than 10,000 Boeing aircraft currently fly around the world using Chinese-made components and assemblies, according to the official website of Boeing.

Economic cooperation between China and Europe has deepened in recent years. For instance, China-EU bilateral trade has been hitting new highs in the last two years, while in sharp contrast, China-US economic ties have been hit hard by Washington's economic crackdowns, which have obviously battered the confidence of businesses from both sides in launching cooperation, Zhao noted.