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An Airbus A319 plane, operated by Delta Airlines, departs Raleigh-Durham International Airport in Morrisville, North Carolina. Picture: AL DRAGO/BLOOMBERG
An Airbus A319 plane, operated by Delta Airlines, departs Raleigh-Durham International Airport in Morrisville, North Carolina. Picture: AL DRAGO/BLOOMBERG 

Airbus won orders for almost 200 airliners worth more than $24bn (R385bn) from three Chinese airlines in a coup for the European manufacturer in its tussle with Boeing for dominance in Asia’s largest economy.

Air China will get 64 A320neo narrow-body jets, with its Shenzhen Airlines subsidiary taking 32, according to a filing Friday. China Southern Airlines said earlier it would buy 96 A320neos, as well as hiring in additional planes.

China is a key market for Airbus and Boeing as the world’s most-populous nation and both have worked to boost their presence there. While travel in the country remains subdued amid Covid-19 related restrictions, jet orders must be made years in advance given the limited capacity of the manufacturers.

The announcements represent China’s first major jetliner orders in about three years. Boeing has historically counted China Southern as its biggest customer in the country. The airline in May removed more than 100 of the US firm’s 737 Max jets from its near-term fleet plans, citing uncertainty over deliveries.

The China Southern aircraft will be delivered from 2024 to 2027, according to a stock exchange filing Friday. The carrier will separately lease 19 A320neos. Handovers to Air China will span 2023 to 2027 and those to Shenzhen Airlines 2024 to 2026.

China Southern previously outlined plans to rapidly expand its 737 Max fleet, saying in March that 39 were due this year, building towards a total of 103 deliveries through 2024. None of China’s other state-owned carriers have said if they might resume taking the Max once it’s officially back in service. China was the first to ground the plane after fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

Since the Max grounding, Airbus has surged ahead of Boeing in grabbing orders and market share for narrowbody jets, even as the European plane maker struggles with ramping up production to meet surging demand. Last month, CEO Guillaume Faury said a delayed arrival of engines meant Airbus was unable to deliver otherwise fully built jets. 

Fast-growing Indian budget carrier IndiGo, operated by InterGlobe Aviation , is the world’s largest customer for A320neos, having ordered 730 of those jets.

At the end of 2021, China Southern — the country’s largest airline — had a fleet of 399 Boeing narrowbodies, according to its latest annual report. It also had 334 Airbus SEA320 series narrowbodies at the end of last year.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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