European plane-maker Airbus expects Chinese airlines will need up to 150 of its jets over the next five years, including its giant A380s, as Chinese airlines expand to serve a domestic and international travel boom.
Airbus foresees local carriers needing 113 of its A380s -- the world's largest passenger aircraft -- over the next two decades, after a production process plagued by delays that spawned billions of dollars of losses at parent firm EADS.
Asia and China are a pivotal battleground between Airbus and arch-foe Boeing, both of whom are battling to sell jetliners to the country's three top carriers: China Southern Air, China Eastern and Air China.
Over the next year we will see incremental orders from China for A380, John Leahy, chief operating officer, customers, told reporters on the first day of the Asian Aerospace forum.
The demand in the Chinese market will see, for us, around 100-150 aircraft each year for the foreseeable future (of around 5 year), which is one of the reasons that we decided to put our own assembly line in China.
Travel to and from China, the world's fourth-largest economy, is expected to keep climbing alongside its double-digit economic growth, dwindling restrictions and increasingly open skies.
Morgan Stanley estimates that global airline seat capacity will expand 3.8 percent in 2007 and 5.2 percent in 2008 -- driven largely by Asia. For Asia alone, those estimates rise to 8-9 percent for 2008-09, versus 5 percent in 2007.
Leahy did not say how Airbus had arrived at its forecasts.
Airbus, which this year is edging out Boeing in the annual race to sell planes globally after losing in 2006, expects its first assembled-in-China jet to be delivered in 2009. The assembly line in Tianjin should hit full capacity -- four planes a month -- in 2011, Leahy said.
China Southern Air, the country's largest carrier by fleet size, has put in five orders for the world's largest passenger aircraft, which Airbus spent more than $10 billion to develop.
To be sure, Airbus' A380 has undergone its share of public relations snafus, from delays in delivery, to temporarily shelving plans for the freighter version after cancellations including from UPS.