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Airbus sees growth opportunities

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus said it has strong confidence in the growth opportunities in China. Hence, the company has made fresh investments in the country at a time when it canceled some projects elsewhere, said George Xu, executive vice-president of Airbus and CEO of Airbus China.

Confidence in the China market remains high despite COVID challenges and the company's plan to cut costs, he said.

Airbus attaches great importance to the company's digitalization and green transformation. This year, some aircraft delivered from Airbus' final assembly line in Tianjin will use sustainable aviation fuel, Xu said.

Airbus said it expects to deliver the 600th A320 family aircraft assembled in Tianjin, and expand the facility's capability to A321 production in the second half of this year. The A321, the biggest member of the A320 family, now serves as Airbus' single-aisle aircraft with the strongest demand globally, the European aircraft maker said.

Meanwhile, the air cargo transportation market has become a bright spot for the industry amid the pandemic. The world's largest plane maker in terms of the volume of annual delivery said it plans to deliver its first A350 freighter in 2025. It has received multiple orders, including the most recent ones like intended orders from Etihad Airways and orders for seven A350 freighters from Singapore Airlines.

"With the continuous rise in volumes of international trade and the booming growth of e-commerce business, the market for freighters shows rosy prospects. We are in discussions with a number of domestic and international carriers and logistics companies about our latest freighter," Xu said.

"Since the pandemic, competition among airlines has become fiercer, and they need better products and services to raise efficiency and reliability and lower costs. Airbus has developed a relatively sound industrial chain in China. Our success has benefited from close cooperation with local partners, and we are still exploring new cooperation opportunities with Chinese aviation industry players."

In addition, China has shown a strong demand for freighters converted from the A330 passenger aircraft. The aircraft manufacturer said it has more than 230 A330s operating in China, and some aging aircraft are expected to become A330-renovated freighters. Many of them will be converted in China, given the attractive conversion costs and advanced technologies available in the country.

In the past decade, Airbus' continued investment in China has helped lift its market share in the country to about 53 percent and steal a march over its US rival Boeing Co.

"The increase in the delivery capability of Airbus' final assembly line in Tianjin shows the attractiveness of the China market for Airbus and the company regards Tianjin as an important facility," said Zou Jianjun, a professor at the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China.

Last year, Airbus delivered 142 commercial aircraft to Chinese carriers, up more than 40 percent year-on-year. It accounted for 23 percent of the company's total globally.

In 2021, Airbus delivered 611 commercial aircraft globally, up 8 percent year-on-year. This year, Airbus aims to deliver 720 aircraft to its global customers.

Specifically on the A320 family of aircraft, the ramp-up is on track to achieve monthly production rate of 65 by the summer of 2023. By then, the rate will be higher than the level seen before the pandemic.

China will have continued high demand for single-aisle planes and will need about 6,900 single-aisle aircraft by 2040, Airbus forecast.

Meanwhile, the Boeing 737 Max is expected to begin flights in China again soon after being grounded for more than two years following two fatal crashes. The Civil Aviation Administration of China issued an airworthiness certificate for the aircraft model in December.

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