Airbus To Make A330neo In China To Woo Chinese Airline Orders

Airbus has made a powerplay in the Boeing rivalry by possibly building the A330neo in China.

This news comes shortly after Rolls Royce made plans to produce their engines in a nearby factory in Tianjin.

Airbus A330neo
Airbus A330neo. Photo: Airbus.

What are the details?

Airbus has proposed that they build the A330neo at their factory Tianjin, where they currently build the single-aisle A320.

They had previously offered to build their A380s at the site, but the proposal was rejected as the Chinese government was unsure if the jet was suitable for the local environment.

The A330neo however, is perfect. With its 250-280 passenger capacity, and range of 15,000km (8,000 nmi) the aircraft is well suited for the expansive Asian nation. With twin aisles, it allows for speedy boarding and quick aircraft turnarounds. It is currently in use by TAP Portugal and will soon be flown by Air Asia X and Delta.

A330 neo
TAP Air Portugal is the launch customer for the A330-900neo. Source: Airbus

The A330neo is Airbus’ answer to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner (and you can read how we compare the two aircraft here) but has not been selling as well. Airbus has sold 230 A330-900s but only 8 of the smaller -800 versions. They had expressions of interest from Hawaiian and American Airlines but lost them to Boeing. Emirates most recently changed several of their A380 orders into 40 of the A330neo aircraft.

This move by Airbus is only possible because of their engine supplier Rolls Royce, who is opening a new factory nearby. Rolls Royce is going to be building the Trent 7000 turbine in China to be possibly used by the Chinese COMAC aircraft. The Trent 7000 turbine is the only engine option for the A330neo and its manufacture in China opens up a door for Airbus to get up on rival Boeing.

Boeing does not yet build aircraft in China but has opened a finishing/client handover center late last year. Part of the issue is that in order to build aircraft in China, aerospace companies would need to share their groundbreaking manufacturing technology. This may inevitably find its way into the hands of either the government (for the Chinese military) or rival plane manufacturing firms who are planning to challenge Airbus and Boeing.

But China is a market worth pursuing nonetheless, as experts believe that the country will soon need over 8,000 aircraft over the next 20 years. Both Airbus and Boeing want to build up local expertise in the market and grab a large slice as possible.

A330 Neo Maiden Flight
The A330 Neo made its first flight in October 2017. Photo: Airbus

Airbus has been quick to point out that these plans are just plans at this stage, and that there needs to be a lot of discussions and research before they begin the proposal.

What do you think? Is this a good move by Airbus?