Photographer: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg

China Eastern to Buy 20 Airbus A350 Jets, 15 Boeing 787s

  • Asian carrier orders 20 A350s, 15 787s for delivery from 2018
  • Purchase will help Shanghai company swell long-haul network

Airbus Group SE and Boeing Co. split a $10 billion order for 35 wide-body jetliners from China Eastern Airlines Corp. as the Asian company retires older aircraft and adds new long-haul routes.

China’s second-largest carrier agreed to buy 20 Airbus A350-900s worth $6.16 billion at list prices, together with 15 Boeing 787-9s valued at $3.97 billion, in what will be its first deployment of the industry’s newest twin-aisle models.

The aircraft, due to enter service over four years from 2018, will help satisfy China Eastern’s long-haul needs through 2025, the Shanghai-based airline said in a stock exchange filing Thursday. As part of the same strategy it will retire six Boeing 767s and 12 Airbus A330s by 2020.

Chinese airlines are adding bigger planes as economic growth makes longer flights more affordable. China Eastern, which serves about a dozen locations outside the Asia-Pacific, according to its website, plans to boost international capacity about 20 percent this year.

The company valued the A350s at $5.96 billion in its statement, citing Jan. 2014 prices, and said the Dreamliners were worth $3.9 billion as of July that year. That may be an indication that the order is based on terms agreed earlier, or that China Eastern is taking over delivery slots vacated by other buyers. Major carriers typically negotiate significant discounts on list values.

China Eastern will become the fifth airline from the world’s second-biggest economy to fly the 787, and the third to take the A350. A earlier plan to operate 24 Dreamliners was scrapped in 2011, with the company opting to take 45 single-aisle Boeing 737s instead.

As of the of end 2015, China Eastern’s wide-body fleet comprised nine Boeing 777s, the eight 767s and 41 A330s. It’s due to receive 11 more 777s and seven A330s this year and next, according to the most recent annual report.

— With assistance by Clement Tan

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