China, poised to become the world’s biggest aircraft buyer, will finalize orders for 184 Airbus SE A320 family aircraft soon, French President Emmanuel Macron said after talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
The previously unannounced orders are mainly for the A320neo jets, with deliveries to 13 airlines scheduled in 2019 and 2020, an aide to Macron told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday, without elaborating or providing the value of the deal. China, which purchases its jets collectively before distributing them to various carriers, now accounts for almost a quarter of the European planemaker’s deliveries.
The announcement comes after Airbus said it will accelerate production of the A320 workhorse model in China to six a month by 2020 as the European planemaker seeks to meet global demand while pursuing more orders in Asia’s largest economy. The narrow-body build rate at the Tianjin plant east of Beijing will increase from the current four planes a month, said Airbus Chief Operating Officer Fabrice Bregier, who is part of a trade delegation led by Macron.
In December 2017, China Aircraft Leasing Group Holdings Ltd. agreed to buy 50 Airbus single-aisle airliners with a combined list price of $5.42 billion. During Xi’s visit to Berlin in July, Airbus secured orders worth $22 billion and said it was in talks to sell more A380 superjumbos to the Asian nation.
Xi has pledged to keep Airbus order volumes in the years ahead, according to Macron, who is on an official visit to China. The French president also said that discussions were held on sales of Airbus A350 and superjumbo A380 models. China will maintain parity on orders with Airbus and its American rival Boeing Co., Macron said.
Airbus is offering China a production role on its A380 aircraft in an effort to secure a programme-extending order for the slow-selling double-decker jet, a person with knowledge of the matter said.
China, expected to overtake the US as the world’s biggest aviation market by as early as 2022, is a battleground for Airbus and Boeing as the two titans seek to dominate the nation’s aviation market. Boeing has predicted China will need 7,240 new aircraft in the 20 years through 2036, making it the world’s biggest single-country market worth over $1 trillion.
Travel demand within China is expected to grow about 6 percent annually over the next two decades, according to the US planemaker. The number of people flying to, from and within China will reach 1.5 billion by 2036, according to the International Air Transport Association.