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Plane manufacturer Airbus broke ground on its first wide-body completion plant outside Europe in China on 2 March, while its CEO Fabrice Bregier said he saw no serious impact on the country's aircraft market from a slowing economy.
Airbus marked the handover of a completion and delivery centre for its wide-body A330 in Beijing's neighbouring city of Tianjin, which will be a new addition to its existing assembly plant for A320 planes.
"At Airbus, we are honoured to play our part and to open a major new chapter in our cooperation with you here today. I have every confidence that this centre will be a great success," Bregier said at the handover ceremony, attended by Chinese officials.
The CEO of Airbus says it expects China's aviation market, the world's second-largest, to emerge unscathed from an economic slowdown thanks to robust demand for international travel.
"The economy is slowing down. This is true globally. This is not true for our market. And we believe that for the next five years, plus 10% growth year-on-year in already the second biggest market in the world, is extremely important and a very cautious assumption," Bregier told reporters.
"China has focused, rightly so, on single-aisles (narrow-body aircraft) a lot, and will continue to procure a lot of single-aisles. But I am sure the next step will be getting more wide-bodies. So perhaps one day there will be enough market to look at such a big investment," he added.
Even though the Chinese economy has lost some steam, aircraft-makers like Airbus and Boeing remain buoyant about air travel demand in the country. Airbus expects China to need 5,400 new planes over 20 years and is considering hedging its bets there as a result. At the same time, it is studying whether it should increase the production rate of its A320 assembly line, Airbus China chief Eric Chen said.
Boeing has also signed a cooperation document with Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) to build a completion centre for its 737 passenger jets in China.
The number of Chinese leisure travellers going overseas for the first time topped 100m in 2014, official data shows. Foreign travel is tipped to grow another 10% this year as the United States, France and Australia ease visa policies.