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Airbus, China get "win-win" fruits from Chinese market


15:32, September 14, 2011

An Airbus A319 aircraft, painted with yellow, blue and green stripes on white fuselage, a symbol of rainbows and plateau purity of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, found its home in Tibet as the first airplane of Tibet Airlines in July.

Labeled with "Tibet Airlines" in Chinese Han, English and Tibetan languages, the A319 sheds a Tibetan flavor -- Tibet-style interior, stewardesses of Tibetan ethnic group in traditional costumes, on-board service in three languages, etc.

More importantly, the airplane has a stronger "heart" -- specially modified engines to Tibet Airlines specification -- for flying above the roof of the world. The systems on the A319 was also modified to supply oxygen for 55 minutes, compared with the usual time of 22 minutes for aircraft that do not serve the plateau region.

The 26-year history of Airbus in China is a path from the bottom to the top, for its present arch rival Boeing almost held the whole market when Airbus first landed in China in 1985. But now it has already griped 45 percent market share.

Airbus' fast growth in China may lie on its strategy of localization, or developing suppliers and building manufacturing centers in the labor-cost country. All Airbus commercial aircraft now have components produced in China with six Chinese companies are involved in manufacturing parts for Airbus jet liners, adding a strong "Chinese flavor" to the big airplane family, even the largest passenger jet A380.

In 2009, the Tianjin A320 assembly line, the first for Airbus outside Europe, came on stream. The joint venture takes charge of assembling four types of Airbus A320 series planes for the world. In the year, however, Airbus, like many other manufacturing companies, was seriously affected by the global financial crisis. But the good thing is the burgeoning Asian market, especially China, rescued the maker out of the mire thanks to its big orders.

In 2010, Airbus delivered a total of 111 aircrafts to China, accounting for one-fifths of its world total, according to the company. Recognizing the importance of the Asian market, Airbus recently unveiled its corporate liners cabin concept for Asian customers, dubbed Phoenix, which features karaoke equipment and a red color theme, an auspicious color in Chinese culture. Also, a round table for family style dining preferred in many Asian cultures can be converted to a square to allow a post-meal game of mahjong.

As a leading aircraft manufacturer, Airbus has long been blamed for providing energy-guzzling mode of transportation. As a matter of fact, Airbus has been making efforts to make its airplanes greener. The first commercial Airbus aircraft fuelled with bio-fuel made a maiden flight in German in July. Deutsche Lufthansa and Airbus jointly launched a flight with Airbus A321 flying the Hamburg-Frankfurt route four times daily will use a 50/50 mix of regular fuel and biosynthetic kerosene in one of its two engines for the next six months. The airline said during the test period the use of bio-fuel will reduce CO2 emissions by up to 1,500 metric tons.

It is said that a similar green commercial flight from Beijing to Shanghai in China would be opened soon, a meaningful thing as China has been blamed for fast growth in CO2 emission.

When the European aircraft manufacturer launched its first aircraft program -- the A300 -- in May 1969, the commercial jet aircraft market was entirely dominated by the United States. Today, Airbus is a leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive families of aircraft on the market, ranging in capacity from 100 to more than 500 seats.

A380 aircraft, the world's largest passenger jet with capacity for up to 853 passengers, has been a "Sunday punch" to its rivals. Though China has only ordered one A380 currently, Airbus is fully confident more A380s sales in China in recent years under the expectation that China will grow to be the second biggest aviation market in the world within 20 years.

China is developing its C-919 trunkliner, partly enlightened by Airbus and Boeing which together occupy the whole sky. On this, Airbus shows a positive attitude with its President Barrow earlier said "the Chinese market is big enough for three competitors and Airbus was born into competition."

Truly, China's market is big. China's air travel market is growing fast with a total of 267 million air passenger trips in 2010, up 15.8 percent from the previous year and China plans to invest more than 1.5 trillion yuan (230 billion US dollars) in its aviation industry over the next five years to meet surging demand. Meanwhile, the country aims to expand its aircraft fleet to more than 4,500 planes by 2015 from over 2,600 at present.

All these seem to signal that Airbus and China can rake in more "win-win" fruits from the burgeoning Chinese market.


Leave your comment1 comments

  1. Name

eric burns at 2011-09-15115.187.254.*
A very interesting and positive article for Airbus. Maybe you could just take care of one anomaly, the term "metric ton" is purely for Americans, whose population seems to find it too difficult to remember the correct metric symbol "t". It is one of the beauties of the metric system that everyone uses the same symbols. Please don"t follow America"s disregard for the system the whole world uses. Thank you, eric

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