Amid continued fears for health and safety in China due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, Airbus has taken the decision to close its only assembly line in the country. The final assembly line in Tianjin produces A320-family aircraft, and has now been closed. Airbus has not given a date for its reopening.
Airbus factory closure
Yet another victim has fallen to the coronavirus spreading rapidly across China: the A320 assembly line in Tianjin. Airbus has said that it is following the government’s recommendations for staff to work from home. The manufacturer has said it is providing IT support to make this possible.
Over 500 people work at the branch which is one of four A320 final assembly lines in the world. It produces around six jets per month, almost 10% of the global production of the jet. So, while Airbus has not said when the factory will reopen, no doubt they are hoping it will be sooner rather than later.
So far, Airbus is the only major airframer to comment on the virus outbreak but it isn’t the only one affected. Not only has air travel been affected by airlines canceling flights to China, but also imports and exports have been minimized to help prevent the further spread of the disease.
In a statement Airbus said; “With regards to the business impact, China domestic and worldwide travel restrictions are posing some logistical challenges”. A continued closure at the Tianjin facility could result in delivery issues and cash flow problems for the French manufacturer.
Airbus has said it is “constantly evaluating the situation and monitoring any potential knock-on effects to production and deliveries and will try to mitigate via alternative plans where necessary.” The closure of the plant is not only for the safety of employees but also due to the fact that the supply of materials needed at the factory is in short supply.
Airbus isn’t the only one facing issues. Cathy Pacific Airways, based in Hong Kong, has asked staff to take three weeks of unpaid leave as demand for flights to China falls.
Just yesterday, GeekWire reported that Boeing’s vice president of marketing Randy Tinseth said of the outbreak “I think it’ll have an impact on GDP growth. It will have an impact on traffic growth. And I think especially as we look at our customers today, it will have an impact in terms of profitability.” As if Boeing doesn’t have enough to worry about.
Boeing also has a finishing facility in China. Its plant in Zhoushan, near Shanghai, was closed for the new year and has remained closed due to the virus. Engine maker Safran has also extended the closing of its operations over the Chinese New Year to protect staff.
As cargo ships and airlines minimize contact with China, the delay in the supply chain parts is growing. Even with people back at their work stations, there are no materials coming in. The continued effect of the virus may be felt by the aviation industry long after China returns to work.