Plans for a new Airbus assembly line in China, announced by French President Emmanuel Macron in Beijing on Thursday, will boost the planemaker's plans for increases in output while leaving spare capacity, its CEO said on Thursday.
Guillaume Faury told reporters that the expansion underpins plans to lift output to 75 a month in 2026, from 45 at the end of 2022, while all of the company's plants would be able to handle the in-demand but industrially complex A 321 neo, the largest variant.
Airbus has since 2008 assembled A 320 family planes in the northern port city of Tianjin. The existing line is running at four planes a month, with plans to reach capacity of six a month later this year, Faury said.
The new line will double the capacity on paper, depending on the type and complexity of the model being assembled.
China is bringing its own competing plane, the C 919, onto the market and represents over 20% of the aircraft market.
Chinese air travel is rebounding after extended COVID 19 lockdowns, with domestic traffic returning to pre-pandemic levels since March, while international traffic is at about 30% of 2019 levels.
The recovery here is quite impressive. Faury said during his first visit since 2019 that there was very strong momentum.
The expansion brings to 10 the number of assembly lines installed or planned for the world's largest planemaker, including four in Hamburg, two in Toulouse, France and two in China and the United States.
Rival Boeing only assembles civil jets in the United States.
Industry sources say that each line typically can handle eight A 320 neo planes per month, but may run slower for the more complex A 321 neo, which often requires more customisation.
Faury said this will create the critical mass that we like to have for a final assembly system for single aisles, and it will leave room for surge capacity if needed.