China’s Government is working towards placing a major bulk order with Airbus for as many as 150 A320-family narrowbodies on behalf of six airlines.


Industry sources in China say the order is likely to be confirmed early next week during a visit to France by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao. China likes to announce orders for foreign goods during high-level political visits and Wen is due to make an official visit to France between 4 December and 7 December.

The sources say the size of the planned order has yet to be formally determined but current expectations are that it will be larger than the recent 70-aircraft Boeing 737-700/800 commitment that China announced during a visit to Beijing by US president George W Bush.

China indicated at the time of that deal on 20 November that it expected to place a further order with Boeing for 80 aircraft soon, taking the total size of its fresh 737 commitments to 150. Due to the highly political nature of aircraft deals in China the size of a bulk order is often only decided by top officials in government on the day it is due to be announced, and several sources say the original plan was to announce a 150-aircraft Boeing deal but that China’s leaders ordered it to be cut back as they were unhappy about comments made by Bush regarding China’s political rival Taiwan days before he visited Beijing.

A source with one of the Chinese carriers expected to be allocated A320-family aircraft from the planned bulk order with Airbus says most in the country’s airline sector anticipate it will be for around double the number committed to in the recent 737 order - and potentially for as many as 150.

China’s domestic air transport market has been growing at a rapid rate and many airlines have been seeking government approval to order more aircraft. Over the past year the focus has largely been on committing to widebody capacity expansion and major orders have been placed for Airbus A330s, Airbus A380s and Boeing 787s. Both Airbus and Boeing have said they expect many more narrowbody orders from China in the next year or two, however, as the main focus returns to boosting domestic capacity.As China’s economy is a planned one the country’s airlines must seek many approvals before acquiring aircraft. After final approval is granted state-owned China Aviation Supplies Import & Export Group signs a general terms agreement with a manufacturer, after which the airlines that are allocated aircraft finalise purchase agreements directly.

News of the expected new A320 order comes just days after privately owned Chinese start-up carrier East Star Airlines inked a letter of intent with Airbus to purchase 10 A320-family aircraft and agreed to lease another 10 from GE Commercial Aviation Services.

Source: Flight International