Airbus China says it has secured a firm commitment for at least 100 A320neos from Chinese customers, and that discussions for several hundreds more of the re-engined narrowbody are ongoing.
In an interview with journalists at Airbus China's office in Beijing, its president Eric Chen disclosed that the commitment for the 100 Neos comes from flag carrier Air China and state-owned leasing company ICBC Leasing, and are subjected to approvals from the local government.
If approved, this would be one of China's first Neo orders. Publicly, the airframer has so far only announced an order from ICBC Leasing for 20 Neos – Chen says a part of this figure is included in the 100 aircraft commitment.
Meanwhile, Air China filed a stock exchange disclosure in May, saying its board has approved an order for 100 A320s, 40 of which will go to subsidiary Shenzhen Airlines. At that time, the Star Alliance carrier did not say whether the order included the re-engined version of the narrowbody. Chen, however, says that 60 of the 100 aircraft on order are Neos.
"Besides this firm commitment for 100 aircraft, we also have an active sales campaign, and several hundreds more Neos are being discussed," says Chen.
He explains that though Chinese carriers only order aircraft based on five-year plans (the current one runs from 2011 to 2015), they are aware that they may not get early slots should they order the Neo later, because of high demand for the type.
"They realise that if they plan in the same way, they may lose the opportunity for slots in years to come. So in this context, there is a lot of anxiety and thus they are discussing with us their needs for Neos," says Chen. "There are many active negotiations ongoing."
There are currently 807 A320 family aircraft being operated by Chinese customers.