13 November 2014

Chinese airlines want A350s now. But they have not ordered it for 4 years.

Chinese demand is a factor behind Airbus’s keenness to build the A350 faster than the rate of 10 a month planned for 2018.

“We don’t have many early delivery slots to offer customers in China,” and none before 2020, said Airbus China President Eric Chen, adding that more A350s would have been sold to Chinese airlines if more slots had been available.

This year A350 production is moving from 2 to 3/month. By the end of 2015 it should reach 5/month, with the current full-rate target of 10/month to be achieved in 2018.  “We are looking at ways to accelerate production, but there are no miraculous solutions,” says Chen.

“Discussions are ongoing with industrial partners. We need to find a solution…but we know we have a lot of industrial challenges and ramping up is not so easy.”  Airbus has previously said it was looking at speeding up production to 12/month after 2018 and some installations have been designed to support a maximum rate of 13/month.

Scarcity of A350 production slots is a particular problem for Airbus in China because the airlines there mostly order aircraft according to traditional communist 5-year planning periods. So they are currently filling requirements for 2016-20.

The state planning process has tended to push orders for each 5-year plan to the last year or so before the planning period begins. As a result, Chinese carriers have been challenged in getting timely deliveries of aircraft that have few or no early slots, notably new models such as the A350. 

“But we don’t have slots before 2020 to offer,” said Chen. “That’s the issue. It’s got nothing to do with preference. We have to find an effective solution to this problem.”

The Chinese government signed for 10 A350-900s on behalf of Air China in 2010. This order for 10 was an exception to the process driven by Airbus’s allocation of A350 development and production work to China. But in last 4 years none Chinese airlines -China SouthernChina Eastern and Hainan Airlines- have ordered any A350 XWB.

Based on the article “Faster A350 Rate Would Feed Chinese Demand” published in Aviation Week.

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