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Air China plans for new Airbuses

By Wang Wen  (China Daily)

13:14, May 09, 2013

Air China Ltd announced a large-scale aircraft purchasing plan on Wednesday, which analysts read as a clear signal of its confidence in the country's civil aviation market.

The Chinese flag carrier said it plans to buy 100 Airbus aircraft, without giving any details on models or a timetable for the purchases.

It also added that six A340 aircraft, the oldest in its Airbus fleet at an average 14.6 years, will be retired.

Industry sources suggested the new aircraft are unlikely to be added within two years.

Li Lei, a civil aviation analyst with China Minzu Securities, said: "The 100 aircraft are part of the company's mid-term plans, and represent 20 percent of its current fleet."

At the end of last year, Air China had a fleet of 461 aircraft, including 209 Airbus airplanes, according to its annual report.

Li said that such a large order showed that Air China is optimistic of continued growth in China's civil aviation industry.

"Expected capacity growth by other Chinese airlines is also large, especially on international routes," said Li, suggesting more investment in overseas capacity is likely.

According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, by the end of 2015 there will be 450 million passenger trips being made a year, and investment in civil aviation will be worth 1.5 trillion yuan ($243.2 billion).

Fabrice Bregier, president and CEO of Airbus, said China will be the world's largest aviation market in the next 20 years.

Statistics from Beijing-based China Tourism Academy show that outbound traffic hit 83 million trips in 2012, making China the world's largest source of tourists.

"Those figures explain why Chinese airlines have to pay more attention to international routes," Li added.

Air China completed its first Beijing-Geneva flight on Tuesday, the carrier's 12th destination in Europe.

It also announced that its board had authorized guaranteed funding for the purchase of eight Boeing 777-200F freighters, for Air China Cargo Co Ltd, a leading player in what is a struggling sector at present.

The guarantee will be provided jointly with Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, its partner in Air China Cargo, in accordance with their respective 51 and 49 percent stakes in the business.

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