European planemaker Airbus has delivered its first wide-body A350 aircraft from its Tianjun plant to China Eastern Airlines, as part of its expanding ‘global footprint’ in east Asia.
The A350-900 jet was delivered from Airbus’ completion and delivery centre (C&DC) in Tianjin.
The C&DC is located at the same site as the Airbus A320 Family Final Assembly Line and Airbus Tianjin Delivery Centre and was inaugurated in 2017.
The centre finalises all aspects of the jet, such as cabin installation, aircraft painting, production flight tests, customer flight acceptance and delivery.
“I’m proud that Airbus successfully extended the capability of the widebody C&DC in Tianjin to the A350, the latest new generation aircraft, at such a difficult time of global aviation,” said George Xu, Airbus executive vice president and Airbus China CEO.
“This is a new milestone in the long-term cooperation between China and Airbus, which further demonstrates Airbus’ commitment to the country.”
He added China Eastern Airlines is a long-term strategic partner with Airbus, and the delivery confirmed “their trust” in the planemaker.
China Eastern now operates an Airbus fleet of 413 aircraft, with nine of the wide-bodies in total.
China is a key player in Airbus’ global market share, with around 200 suppliers supporting the company’s commercial aircraft.
Airbus’s annual spending on the commercial aircraft business in China reached about U$1 billion in 2020, an increase of almost 60 per cent from 2016 levels.
According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the nation’s domestic air travel market hit pre-pandemic levels by April this year.
Airbus’ China-based centre originally focused its capabilities on A330s, but, a memorandum of understanding on the further development of industrial cooperation was signed in 2019 to extend its A350 efforts.
It was signed by French President Emmanuel Macron, He Lifeng, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China, and Guillaume Faury, Airbus CEO.
The A350 jet is “unrivalled” in its operations, with a 25 per cent reduction in fuel burn and CO2 emissions and new fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce engines.
This first delivery is a landmark step for Airbus, as China’s ‘big three’ airlines – China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Air China – held off of Airbus and Boeing deliveries last year.
In total, all three delayed 58 jets from the planemakers to make room for 12 COMAC ARJ21 regional aircraft into their fleets in the interim, Nikkei Asia said.
According to Airbus, by the end of June this year, the A350 family had received 915 firm orders from 49 customers worldwide.