Tianjin Factory Set To Build Additional A320s
By Jens Flottau, Bradley Perrett
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology
On the Chinese side, it is likely that the airlines are quite eager to receive their aircraft on time. Amid slowing but still-rapid traffic growth, the A330 has become a standard type for domestic trunk routes, not only for its unit-cost advantages over narrowbodies but also because takeoff-and-landing slots at Beijing and Shanghai are becoming increasingly scarce. Moreover, the aircraft are probably not replacing many old aircraft, so deterring retirements is not a solution.
Regarding possible alternatives, Boeing 787s and 777s are optimized for longer missions than needed within China, although the carriers could conceivably buy the Boeing transports and use them to replace A330s on long international routes.
In the past few years, Airbus has noticed a tendency for Chinese airlines to increase the size of aircraft in their orders—for example, by substituting A321s for A320s. That trend is continuing, says Barron.
One issue that is already on the agenda is A320NEO and A350 delivery slots. Because Chinese aircraft orders are always part of the latest five-year plan, firm commitments tend to be given relatively late compared with other customers' practices.
There is only one Chinese order for the A350; Air China bought 10 -900s and Hong Kong Airlines ordered 15. There are currently no orders from China for the A320NEO family, which is to enter revenue service at the end of 2015.
“The five-year planning is becoming a problem,” says Barron, because other airlines will have taken all of the nearer-term delivery slots before China even decided to order them. He cautions that there are always ways to find slots for customers if they are of strategic importance. But major blocks are much more difficult to reallocate at short notice. As a result, Chinese carriers might have gain access to their first A320NEOs through leasing companies.