Chinese carriers may not be immune to the drop in demand caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, but that has not stopped them from pursuing ambitious growth plans.

Late in April, China confirmed plans to order 30 Airbus narrowbody and widebody aircraft on behalf of five airlines. The deal will comprise four A330s, 16 A319s and 10 A320s, to be ordered on behalf of Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines and Sichuan Airlines.

A General Terms Agreement for the "bulk order" was signed in Beijing at a ceremony attended by Airbus president Noel Forgeard, who was on a visit to China with French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

The A330s will go to China Southern and they are the first sale of the type in the Chinese market. China Southern is expected to be allocated some of the narrowbodies. All of the carriers are Airbus operators except Hainan Airlines.

Source: Airline Business