Booming growth of long-haul international routes calls for wide-body aircraft, executive says
European aircraft manufacturer Airbus Group SE says it expects to deliver its first A350 to Chinese airlines in the second half of next year and is bullish about the country's demand for wide-body aircraft, fueled by fast-growing long-haul international routes markets.
An A350 test aircraft will start its China tour in November, with the debut in Haikou, Hainan province, after which it will be demonstrated at the Zhuhai Airshow, before visiting Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu, the company said last week.
Currently, more than 40 A350 aircraft are in operation internationally. China Eastern Airlines ordered 20 A350-900 aircraft in April. Air China ordered 10 of those earlier. In September, Sichuan Airlines signed a letter of intent to lease four more.
China's long-haul market has been surging as the number of direct international flights to and from China skyrocketed 150 percent in the last five years, mainly fueled by the growth of the middle class and relaxed visa policies.
From 2010 to 2015, the number of Chinese who traveled abroad jumped by an annual average of 16 percent, and 200 million individual Chinese are expected to travel overseas by 2020, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
In the first half of 2016, Chinese airlines transported 25.2 million people on international routes, jumping 27 percent year-on-year, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China
"China's booming growth of international flights, especially those long-haul routes, requires wide-body aircraft. The A350 is suitable for those airlines with complete international flight networks," says Eric Chen, Airbus China President and CEO.
Airbus says it expected that between 2014 and 2034, air traffic in China will have an annual growth rate of 6.9 percent, mainly from domestic flights in China, and flights between China and the US, and China and Western Europe. Globally, the average growth rate will reach 4.6 percent.
Boeing Co said last month that it expects China's wide-body fleet to triple in size over the next two decades.
"There is a rapid growth of international travel volume in China, with the traffic of some routes increased exponentially. The trend will continue, and the high amount of international travel is likely to drive the demand for wide-body aircraft," says Li Xiaojin, a professor at Civil Aviation University of China in Tianjin.
The A350 has 280 to 366 seats and is the first Airbus aircraft with both fuselage and wing structures made primarily of carbon fiber.
Airbus' US archrival Boeing signed an agreement with China Southern Airlines on Oct 12 for a dozen B787s, the main competitor with the A350.
"We have firm confidence in the China market and will continue to expand industrial cooperation with Chinese enterprises. We will also collaborate with more Chinese interior cabin suppliers and provide more opportunities for them to enter the world market," Chen says.
Airbus (Beijing) Engineering Center, a joint venture between Airbus and Aviation Industry Corp of China, participated in the design of the airframe of the A350, and some 5 percent of the airframe is manufactured in Harbin, Heilongjiang province.
© Copyright © 2016 China Daily Africa Weekly. All Rights Reserved., source Newspapers