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Airbus to open new China assembly line, gets plane order nod

Europe's Airbus moved to double capacity in China and strengthen access to the world's second-largest aviation market by agreeing on Thursday to build a second Chinese assembly line, as domestic travel returns to pre-pandemic levels.

The world's largest planemaker, which has overtaken Boeing as a supplier to China amid tensions between Washington and Beijing, also got the green light for existing orders for 160 jets but failed to win new orders during a French state visit.

"The recovery here is quite impressive. We see very strong momentum," Airbus Chief Executive Guillaume Faury told reporters during his first visit to China since the COVID-19 crisis.

Airbus says China's traffic will grow by 5.3% annually over the next two decades, outstripping a global average of 3.6%.

The France-based group has been assembling its best-selling A320-family planes in Tianjin outside the capital since 2008.

The existing line puts together four jets a month from major parts shipped from Europe and complemented by a local supply chain, with plans to reach monthly capacity of six this year.

The new plant will double that and bring to 10 the number of Airbus assembly lines operating or planned worldwide, including four in Germany, two in France and two in the United States.

Apart from a foray into China by a predecessor company in the 1990s, Boeing has pursued a different industrial strategy, with assembly concentrated in two regions of the United States.

Faury said the expansion would boost the European company's plans to lift output of the single-aisle A320neo to 75 a month in 2026, from 45 at end-2022, and leave some "surge capacity".

The target has been delayed following recent havoc in global supply chains, but Airbus says it is pulling together a resilient system.

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