China’s state aviation supplier has tentatively signed for up to 75 Airbus A330s in an agreement which will help bridge a production gap to the re-engined A330neo.
Unveiling of the deal – a general terms agreement for 45 jets plus a memorandum of understanding for another 30 options – took place during an official visit to France by Chinese premier Li Keqiang.
Airbus has long been negotiating the landmark agreement following a preliminary deal to establish an A330 completion centre in Tianjin.
The airframer has yet to detail fully the pact with China Aviation Supplies Holding, which is likely to include several aircraft configured in the lower-weight regional version.
But Airbus chief Fabrice Bregier says the package is a “new vote of confidence” in the twinjet. “China is today the most important market for aviation in the world,” he adds.
Airbus has viewed China as a target market for the regional version of the A330 which is intended to operate shorter routes with a high-density cabin layout featuring some 400 seats.
Saudia became the first carrier to commit to the type through an agreement to take 20 earlier this month.
No engine selection or delivery date has yet been disclosed for the Chinese A330s.
Airbus intends to start delivering the new A330neo towards the end of 2017. But it has been trying to secure sufficient orders for the current A330 line to avoid cutting monthly production to fewer than six aircraft, a reduction already planned for the first quarter of 2016.