Photographer: Xaume Olleros/Bloomberg

Boeing Delivered a Record 200 Jetliners to China Last Year

  • Company targets more Dreamliner orders in country in 2016
  • Air travel seen growing despite slower Chinese economy

Boeing Co. delivered a record number of airplanes to China last year, outpacing rival Airbus Group SE, and is predicting more wide-body orders this year as mainland carriers attempt to harness booming demand for international travel.

Of the 200 jetliners Boeing delivered to airlines and lessors based in China last year, 28 were wide-bodies, Darren Hulst, the company’s managing director for Northeast Asia marketing, said Friday in Beijing. The 200 deliveries set a record for the Chicago-based planemaker to a single market. The country received 365 large aircraft in 2015, he said, citing data from the Civil Aviation Administration of China. Airbus said last week that it delivered 158 planes to China.

“While economic growth is slowing, the growth of air travel correlates with the parts of the Chinese economy that are growing, and we expect that gap to grow,” Hulst said. He expressed hope for wide-body orders from Beijing-based Air China Ltd. and Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines Co. this year. 

As China re-balances its economy toward consumer spending after its slowest annual growth rate in 25 years, the government is trying to encourage air travel by building scores of airports by the end of the decade. Passenger traffic rose 11.4 percent last year in China to 440 million trips, according to the aviation administration. It has projected 485 million passenger trips this year. Chinese airlines and leasing companies announced orders for some 780 planes valued at about $102 billion last year.

New Plant

Boeing is due to announce the location of a Chinese finishing facility for single-aisle jets. Airbus broke ground last week on a similar plant for wide-body planes at the same Tianjin site that has housed its narrow-body assembly facility for nearly a decade.

The U.S. planemaker delivered a record 762 jetliners globally last year but said that number will drop to as low as 740 this year. Boeing is halving output of its iconic 747 humpbacked jumbo jet as it starts building a new version of the single-aisle 737, its best-selling and most profitable jetliner. 

Chinese and Middle Eastern carriers are likely to dominate Asia-Pacific long-distance routes this year, taking market share from Asian, European and North American rivals and pressuring fares, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Ian McFarlane said. Chinese airlines fly direct to 114 long-distance destinations, up 150 percent in the past five years, according to Boeing. Their market share in that segment has climbed to almost half from 36 percent in 2011.

Also, more long-distance trips are being flown from locations other than Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the country’s biggest cities. Boeing said 41 of the 90 new direct long-distance routes from China in the last five years were from 15 secondary cities, with 66 of the total flown by Chinese airlines.

‘Perfect Mix’

“We are not seeing airlines asking us for bigger, bigger, bigger. You need the perfect mix of size, scale and efficiency,” Hulst said. The wide-body 787 Dreamliner will be key to Boeing’s strategy in China this year, he said. The company expects the country to overtake the U.S. as the largest aircraft market in two decades.

Hainan Airlines Co., China Southern Air and its affiliate Xiamen Airlines are the only Chinese carriers that currently operate the Dreamliner, with Air China due to receive its first in the second quarter.

— With assistance by Clement Tan

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