Airbus Group SE landed a $2.9 billion order for wide-body jets from Air China Ltd. ahead of Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony for a finishing facility near Beijing for the same plane model.
Air China, the country’s third-largest carrier by passenger volume, is buying 12 A330-300s, though it listed the planes’ January 2013 purchase prices in a statement Monday to the Shanghai exchange. The deal would be worth $3.1 billion at 2016 list prices, before the discounts customary in the industry. The planes are due for delivery through 2018 and would increase the airline’s capacity by 5.6 percent, the Beijing-based company said.
The deal comes as Airbus prepares to break ground on a completion center for its double-aisle A330s in Tianjin, a decade after it opened an assembly facility for single-aisle jets there. The center was announced last year along with a string of orders for the current A330 model, which will help Airbus avoid deep production cuts as it transitions to a revamped version with new engines.
The rapid growth of air travel in Asia is boosting orders for Airbus and rival Boeing Co., with China expected to surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest aircraft market in the next two decades. The country’s economic expansion is making air travel affordable to more people, prompting carriers there to expand their fleets.
Last year alone, Chinese airlines and leasing companies announced orders for some 780 planes valued at about $102 billion. Air China, Spring Airlines Co. and other Chinese airlines will require about 6,330 new planes worth $950 billion in the next two decades, about 17 percent of the global total, according to Boeing.