Airbus announced that it will open another Final Assembly Line (FAL) in China, while also securing an aircraft order from the country’s airlines.
The news comes as Airbus executives joined French President Emmanuel Macron and the President of the European Commission (EC) Ursula von der Leyen during a visit to China.
The European Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) signed several agreements in Beijing on April 6, 2023, for an aircraft order, a deal to establish another FAL in Tianjin, China, and increase cooperation on Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) with a local company.
The new deal will expand the manufacturer’s capabilities at the FAL in Tianjin, where the planemaker has had an assembly line for the A320 family aircraft since 2008. The Tianjin FAL delivered the first aircraft in 2009, and delivered the first A321neo on March 24, 2023, further expanding its manufacturing capabilities there.
Airbus Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Guillaume Faury signed the agreement with the Tianjin Free Trade Zone Investment Company and the Aviation Industry Corporation of China to expand the Tianjin FAL. “The agreement will contribute to Airbus’ overall rate objective of 75 aircraft per month in 2026 throughout its global production network,” read the OEM’s statement. French President Emmanuel Macron and China’s President Xi Jinping witnessed the signing, noted the company.
“The second line at the Tianjin FAL creates more flexibility in a fragile ecosystem and meets the needs of the market, to reach a global A320 Family production rate of 75 in 2026,” said an Airbus spokesperson in a statement to AeroTime.
“The new FAL will be operational by the end of 2025,” they added.
Confirming Airbus deliveries to Chinese carriers
Airbus also signed a General Terms Agreement (GTA) with the China Aviation Supplies Holding Company (CAS) for 160 aircraft, namely 150 A320 and 10 A350-900s. “The GTA comprises earlier announcements,” noted the manufacturer’s press release.
“The GTA is the Chinese Government approval for the delivery of these aircraft,” an Airbus spokesperson clarified the purpose of the agreement in a statement to AeroTime.
A third agreement was signed between the OEM and China National Aviation Fuel Group (CNAF) in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The goal of the MoU is “to intensify Chinese-European cooperation on the production, competitive application and common standards formulation for Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF),” according to Airbus.
“Earlier in September 2022, Airbus and CNAF contracted to support commercial and delivery flights in China to be operated with SAF. By the end of March, 17 delivery flights and a first commercial flight were facilitated by the two partners,” added the OEM.
Airbus also expanded its presence in China with a wide-body completion and delivery center (C&DC) for the A330 and A350, initially opening the C&DC in 2017 to complete deliveries of the A330. The European OEM added the A350 to the C&DC’s lineup with the first delivery of the aircraft of the type in June 2021.
Presidential visits from European leaders have previously coincided with aircraft orders and other business for Airbus, including the opening of the Tianjin FAL, when then-French President Jacques Chirac visited the country in 2006. When the current Chinese President Xi Jinping visited France in 2019, Airbus secured an order for 300 aircraft from Chinese carriers.
According to Airbus, the OEM’s and China’s cooperation reached a value of $500 million by 2015.
Chinese airlines last bought aircraft from Airbus in November 2022, when the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited the country. However, the 140 aircraft order, split between 132 A320neo family and eight A350 aircraft, was reused from a previous order made by the country’s carriers.
AeroTime approached Airbus for comment.
UPDATE April 6, 2023, 4:00 PM (UTC +3): The article was updated with more information from Airbus.
UPDATE April 6, 2023, 5:00 PM (UTC +3): The article was updated with a statement from Airbus.