Two airlines put finishing touches to agreements to expand A320 family fleets

Two Chinese carriers, Air China and China Southern Airlines, are finalising deals to expand their Airbus A320 family fleets. Air China is discussing a larger order than previously planned for A319s, and could increase its commitment to around 14 aircraft, including options. China Southern is about to conclude a deal with Inter-national Lease Finance (ILFC) for four A319s to add to its 20 A320s.

Industry sources say Air China plans to place a firm order for eight A319s - two more than expected - and take options on up to six more. Although a final contract is yet to be signed, first delivery is due in the second half of 2003.

A larger A319 puchase would come as a boost for Airbus, which wants to increase its penetration of Air China's Boeing-dominated fleet. So far the Chinese flag carrier has taken delivery of just three Airbus aircraft - all A340-300s that were placed with Cathay Pacific under a two-year lease deal in 1999 and have since been returned.

China Southwest Airlines, which Air China is taking over as part of the ongoing consolidation of the country's airline sector, also has three A340-300s. Another carrier being merged into the new Air China group is Zhejiang Airlines, which has three A319s and five A320s.

Air China is taking A319s after deciding to drop its commitment for eight smaller A318s when Pratt & Whitney ran in to problems developing the latter's PW6000 powerplant (Flight International, 13-19 August). The A319s are expected to be powered by International Aero Engines V2500s because P&W is a partner in the engine consortium and had earlier agreed to buy Air China's four Boeing 747SPs in return for the A318 commitment.

China Southern's A320s are V2500-powered and it wants to take its A319s with the same engine, say the sources. The first aircraft could be handed over as early as the end of this year. The Guangzhou-based carrier already operates three Boeing 777-200ERs on lease from ILFC.

Source: Flight International