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Chinese airlines buy almost 300 planes from Airbus

BEIJING (AFP) – Four Chinese airlines said on Friday they will buy a total of 292 planes from Airbus in a USD37 billion windfall for the aviation giant, as the industry rebuilds after the coronavirus pandemic.

The orders come after a bumper year for Airbus, which posted record profits in 2021 after a two-year pandemic slump, giving the company a further boost over United States (US) rival Boeing.

China Eastern said on Friday it had agreed to purchase 100 A320neo jets and China Southern said on the same day that it would buy 96 of the same model.

Air China and its subsidiary Shenzhen Airlines also confirmed the purchase of a combined 96 A320neo planes, according to separate filings.

Airbus said in a statement Friday that the deals showed “the positive recovery momentum and prosperous outlook for the Chinese aviation market”.

An Airbus A320neo aircraft takes off at Blagnac near Toulouse, south-western France. PHOTO: AFP

It said the deals “brought to conclusion these long and extensive discussions that have taken place throughout the difficult COVID pandemic”.

Boeing’s business in China – one of the world’s largest aviation markets – was hit in recent years by uncertainty over its 737 MAX planes, which were suspended from use in the country after deadly crashes in 2019.

Chinese authorities finally gave the go-ahead for the 737 MAX to resume service last year after making a series of safety adjustments.

In March this year, a Boeing 737-800 crashed in the southern province of Guangxi, killing 132 people in China’s worst air disaster in decades.

The China Eastern flight was travelling from the cities of Kunming to Guangzhou when it inexplicably plummeted from an altitude of 29,000 feet into a mountainside.

Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that US investigators believe someone on board crashed the aircraft deliberately, citing a person familiar with a preliminary assessment of the incident.

China’s travel industry has been hammered by the country’s stringent zero-COVID policy, which has imposed sweeping lockdowns often over just a handful of cases and weighed on the economy and consumer confidence.

The country’s international borders were shut in March 2020 and the number of international flights is still tightly restricted in an effort to tamp down “imported” virus cases.