Airbus Is Confident COMAC’s C919 Can Compete Against The A320neo

Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury claims that COMAC’s C919 will be strong competition for the Airbus A320neo by the end of the decade. Faury made the comments during the Atlantic Council EU-US Future Forum on May 6th, believing that the C919 will progressively transform the single-aisle market into a “triopoly” of Airbus, Boeing and COMAC aircraft.

Airbus Is Confident COMAC’s C919 Can Compete Against The A320neo
Airbus believes the COMAC C919 will take up a significant market share within a decade. Photo: Getty Images

Stiff competition by the end of the decade

Commercial aircraft manufacturing has long been dominated by the duopoly of Airbus and Boeing. However, Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury believes this will change as early as the end of this decade, with Chinese planemaker COMAC making swift progress in recent years.

During an online event hosted by the Atlantic Council, Faury said,

“It will start slowly, reaching at the beginning probably only the Chinese airlines, but we believe it will progressively become a decent player. We will go from a duopoly to a triopoly on the single-aisle probably by the end of the decade.”

COMAC, C919, Airbus Competition
The C919 is expected to enter service in China by the end of 2021. Photo: Getty Images

COMAC expects to introduce its new narrowbody, the C919, into active service later this year. The plane has yet to receive certification, while COVID-19 complications have delayed important natural icing tests until the autumn. Despite this, COMAC believes it can still make deliveries of the plane before the end of 2021. The C919 has been touted as a viable competitor to the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX.

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Will the C919 receive foreign investment?

The C919 has received over 800 provisional orders thus far, almost exclusively from airlines and leasing companies within China. While China’s domestic aviation market is extensive, this alone won’t be enough for the C919 to be considered a success. As with COMAC’s ARJ21, operators outside of China are reluctant to order the C919 thus far.

Additionally, many Chinese airlines are already operating the Airbus A320neo in the domestic market, including Air China and China Southern. Faury believes that the C919 will start strongly in China before picking up globally.

COMAC C919, Certification, China
There has been almost no investment in the C919 outside of China. Photo: Getty Images

Faury said,

“We believe they will start with China, because the Chinese airlines are state-owned companies and it’s easier to do it. It takes a lot of time to demonstrate the maturity of a product, to make it reliable, trusted, and economically viable. But we believe it’s not unlikely [that] on the single-aisle, by the end of the decade, COMAC will have taken a certain share of the market.”

Interestingly, Ryanair has expressed strong interest in the plane since early on in its development. In 2011, the airline signed a memorandum of understanding with COMAC at the Paris Air Show. Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary reaffirmed the carrier’s commitment to the C919 program last year, claiming competition for Airbus and Boeing would be good for the industry.

Airbus may lose a lucrative market

China has been a vital market for Airbus, with around 20% of its deliveries last year to Chinese customers. Faury claims that the Chinese market will “progressively come with domestic products,” making a dent in Airbus’ interests in the region.

Airbus Is Confident COMAC’s C919 Can Compete Against The A320neo
Several carriers in China are operators of the A320neo and the 737 MAX. Photo: N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons

Boeing is also experiencing complications in the region, with China yet to recertify the 737 MAX. This has left Chinese MAX operators, such as Air China and China Eastern, looking to the C919 as a viable alternative.

Do you believe COMAC’s C919 will enter into service by the end of this year? Let us know what you think in the comments.