How The Coronavirus Outbreak Could Drive Down Aircraft Sales

Coronavirus has developed from a small regional outbreak into a worldwide health threat in the space of less than two months. Aviation has been one of the industries worst affected by the disease. But how seriously is it affecting aircraft sales?

Chinese labourers work at the distribution chain for jet engines as French Prime Minister Manuel Valls visits an Airbus factory in Tianjin
Both Airbus and Boeing have production facilities in China. Photo: Getty Images

No matter where you are in the world, you will have heard about coronavirus. The disease has brought air travel to a near standstill as countries have imposed travel restrictions in an attempt to stem the spread of the disease. No region has been worse affected than Asia, where the disease originated.

Alongside restrictions on air travel, workers across the world have been forced to stay at home in order to reduce transmission rates. Both of the big aircraft manufacturers have important manufacturing and assembly facilities in China, which haven’t escaped the effects of coronavirus unscathed.

Production facility closures

Back in early February, news of factory closures across China emerged as coronavirus began to spread. Airbus was one of the many businesses whose production operations were affected. The European aircraft manufacturer has a production facility for its A320-family aircraft in Tianjin which was forced to close briefly in February. Airbus’s Tianjin factory employs more than 500 people and produces around six aircraft per month.

Airbus Factory China
Airbus’s factory in Tianjin counts for around 10 percent the company’s total production capacity. Jagooah via Wikimedia Commons

According to CNN, Airbus’s Tianjin assembly plant produces around 10 percent of all of Airbus’s A320s. In order to mitigate losses as a result of the factory shutdown, Airbus made arrangements for employees to work from home where possible. In a statement, Airbus said that it was “observing Chinese government requirements for staff to work from home.”

How has Boeing been affected?

Boeing also has some production operations in China – a factory in Tianjin and a maintenance facility in Shanghai. These factories are involved in the installation of the interiors for Boeing 737 MAX. Unlike Airbus, the coronavirus outbreak hasn’t had as much of an effect on Boeing’s factories in China.

This isn’t because the virus has forced Boeing’s factories to close down. They haven’t actually been in operation for the past year since the worldwide grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX. After the type was taken out of operation, Boeing decided to halt the production process in order to reduce financial losses.

China Eastern Airbus A320
Airbus and China have lots of Chinese customers. Photo: lasta29 via Wikimedia Commons

As reported by, Boeing didn’t manage to sell any new aircraft in January. It also didn’t receive any orders for new aircraft in January. While the coronavirus outbreak will undoubtedly have an effect on Boeing’s production and sales, it’s not the biggest issue the manufacturer has on its plate at the moment.

Airlines strapped for cash

Although Airbus has a severe backlog of aircraft which won’t be helped by the coronavirus outbreak, the more pressing issue is that airlines are suffering. Passenger numbers are drastically down across the world and airlines are having to cut capacity in order to reduce potential losses. As most airlines are taking in much less cash, their need for and ability to pay for new aircraft will also be significantly reduced.