Three Chinese companies have ordered a total of 68 A320 aircraft from Airbus, the European plane maker said yesterday as it also announced a lighter version of a wide-bodied jet aimed at emerging markets.
In deals worth more than US$6.75 billion at list prices, aircraft-leasing firm BOC Aviation ordered 25 aircraft, Qingdao Airlines requested 23 planes and Zhejiang Loong Airlines sought 20.
The orders were announced at Aviation Expo China in Beijing. In Paris, Airbus said Vietnamese carrier VietJetAir signed a letter of intent to buy 62 A320s worth US$6.1 billion at list prices and take options on a further 30.
The orders marked a "vote of confidence in the long-term appeal of our popular A320 family", John Leahy, Airbus's chief operating officer for customers, said.
Separately, Airbus said the lighter version of its A330-300 wide-body jet was aimed at high-growth markets. "The new lower-weight A330-300 variant specially designed for regional and domestic use is Airbus' solution for markets with large populations and fast-growing, concentrated air traffic flows," Fabrice Bregier, Airbus president and chief executive, said.
"We see strong pent-up demand for efficient and reliable wide-body aircraft connecting mega-cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou".
Airbus said the increased fuel efficiency from the lighter weight of about 200 tonnes "will result in an overall cost reduction by up to 15 per cent compared with today's long-range A330-300 variants".
Bregier said: "It is a solution for regional flights lasting two to three hours, a plane whose cost per seat is equal to that of the A320 but which supports twice as many passengers."
Eric Chen, president of Airbus China, said the company planned to deliver the first of the new A330-300 aircraft by the end of 2015 or early 2016.
BOC Aviation's order for A320s includes 12 A320neos, which are designed to cut emissions and fuel use, while Qingdao Airlines' includes 18 neos and Zhejiang Loong Airlines' has nine. The two latter carriers are start-ups. Qingdao Airlines will begin operations next year and take delivery of the first A320s in 2016, an Airbus statement said. Zhejiang Loong will begin business this year.
Singapore-based BOC Aviation is the aircraft-leasing arm of the Bank of China. Airbus A320s make up a core part of its fleet.
A BOC spokeswoman said the list price for the 25 planes it ordered was US$2.6 billion.
The list prices for the orders from Qingdao Airlines and Zhejiang Loong Airlines amounted to more than US$4.15 billion, according to Dow Jones Newswires.