The company’s growing presence comes amid a projected threefold rise in passenger traffic over the next 20 years in the Asia-Pacific region, making it the world’s biggest air travel market. There also is significant interest in the products and services offered by the company’s defence, space and helicopter divisions.
Airbus has entrenched industrial partnerships in the region, with more than 600 firms in 15 countries supplying parts for Airbus aircraft. The company also has established aircraft and helicopter assembly lines, and incorporated joint ventures and local subsidiaries focusing on areas such as customer support, maintenance and training. The company has 23 offices and sites across the Asia-Pacific region with more than 5,000 employees.
Over the last 40 years, Airbus aircraft have become a mainstay of airline fleets across the Asia-Pacific region. The company’s commercial aircraft product line – the single-aisle A220 and A320 Families, the versatile and highly-popular A330 wide-body, the all-new long-haul A350 XWB, and the A380 superjumbo jet – help facilitate connectivity, trade and economic growth within the region and outside it.
As of September 2019, there were almost 4,000 Airbus aircraft in service with over 100 operators across the region. Another 1,800 aircraft are on order with customers from the region for future delivery, representing 33% of the company's order backlog. The company is a leader in the region’s wide-body market, with some 900 aircraft in service with 50 airlines in the region, and another 300 more on order for future delivery.
The region is a key market for the A380, with over 60 aircraft in service with airlines from Asia and the Pacific. These include Asiana Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas Airways, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways.
The A330 is the preferred choice of aircraft in the 200-300 seat category in the region with more than 600 aircraft in service with Asia-Pacific airlines. The aircraft are operated on everything from short regional flights to sectors of more than 10 hours between Asia and the Pacific, as well as long-haul services to Europe and the U.S. Asia-Pacific customers for the A330neo – the updated version of the popular wide-body jet – include AirAsia X, Aircalin, BOC Aviation, and Garuda Indonesia.
In the larger twin-aisle category, the new long-range A350 XWB Family has been especially successful in the region with over 330 orders from carriers, representing a third of all orders worldwide for the type. There are now 15 operators of the type in the region, with the aircraft flying primarily on long-haul services to Europe and the U.S. These include the world’s longest commercial services between Singapore and New York, operated by Singapore Airlines with the A350-900 ULR (ultra-long range) variant.
In the single-aisle market, the A320 Family is extremely popular throughout the region, with more than 3,000 aircraft in service with over 80 airlines in both the full-service and low-cost sectors. These are deployed on a variety of operations, ranging from high-density domestic routes to medium-haul services within the region. In addition, there are more than 1,500 Airbus aircraft on order for future delivery to airlines in the region.
In addition, Airbus sees the Asia-Pacific region as a strong potential market for the 100-150 seat A220, offered by Airbus in a joint venture partnership with Canada’s Bombardier. The A220 offers a clean sheet design and a step change in fuel efficiency, with 20% lower fuel burn than previous-generation aircraft. The aircraft already is in service in the region with Korean Air.
More than 2,000 Airbus helicopters operate in Asia and the Pacific, making the company a key supplier of rotary aircraft to the region. In particular, the company is a leader in the civil and parapublic segment with a 40% share of the total Asia-Pacific fleet of around 4,000 helicopters. This includes rotorcraft across the company’s product line, ranging from the single-engine H120/H125, through to the twin-engine H130/H135 and the heavy-lift H225 Super Pumas. The region presents the greatest potential in the military sector, with the defence helicopter business worth an estimated €36 billion over the next decade.
Recent key successes in the parapublic market include a contract for 100 H135 with a Chinese consortium comprising China Aviation Supplies Holding Company, Qingdao United General Aviation Industrial Development Company and CITIC Offshore Helicopter. Also in China, CMIG Leasing has ordered 100 Ecureuil helicopters for various missions within the country, while signing a letter of intent to become the launch customer of the new-generation, twin-engine H160 helicopter in China.
Another five H225 helicopters have been ordered by Japan Coast Guard to bring its Super Puma fleet to 13 by 2020. South Korea’s National 119 Rescue Headquarters has made an additional order of two H225 helicopters that will expand its all-Airbus fleet to six by the end of 2019. Two H175 also were delivered to the Royal Thai Police in 2017, making this service the launch customer for the type in the region. The company is a leader in the Philippines, as well, with 76 Airbus helicopters operating in the country.
Airbus Helicopters also has been successful in the defence segment. This includes a contract for 12 H225M helicopters for the Royal Malaysian Air Force, the H225M, AS565 MBe, AS550 and AS555 for the Indonesian defence forces, and the H225M, H145M, and H175 for Thailand. Australia selected the H135 for its helicopter aircrew training system, with deliveries completed in 2017. In 2016, the company won a contract for the H225M from Singapore’s Ministry of Defence to meet the country’s future medium lift requirements.
In September 2019, there were around 140 Airbus light and medium tactical aircraft (C212, CN235 and C295) in service in the region. They are operated by military services, as well as government and civil agencies, in Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. These aircraft are deployed on transport operations, and missions such as search and rescue, maritime patrol and rain-making.
Malaysia is the first export customer for the game-changing A400M airlifter, and the country took delivery of its fourth aircraft in 2017 to become the first operator to have a full squadron. The aircraft have been successfully deployed on transport and humanitarian missions. Airbus has signed a letter of intent with Indonesia’s Pelita Air Services, which represents a consortium of state-owned companies, on the potential purchase of the A400M.
Australia ordered the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) in 2004 to meet its air-to-air refuelling and transport requirements. The Royal Australian Air Force, which became the platform’s launch operator in June 2011, received all five aircraft by November 2012. A follow-on order for two more MRTTs was placed in 2015, with both aircraft now in service.
Singapore confirmed an order for the Airbus A330 MRTT in March 2014, while South Korea also picked the A330 MRTT in a landmark June 2015 decision. Deliveries of Singapore’s MRTTs began in late 2018, while Korea received its first platform in January 2019.
Airbus actively works with countries across the Asia-Pacific region, where there is growing demand for both Earth observation and telecommunication satellite systems. The company has been a reliable partner to the Asian space ecosystem as a prime manufacturer, building satellites for Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Since 1980, the company has supplied space equipment for geostationary and low-Earth orbit spacecraft operators in Singapore, South Korea, and Japan. Airbus also has helped to launch satellites for countries including Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea.
In June 2018, Airbus signed a major new satellite contract with Thailand’s Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA) for the country’s next-generation THEOS-2 programme. The wide-ranging agreement includes two Earth observation satellites, an integrated geo-information system, a ground segment, and a comprehensive local capacity building programme.
In 2019, Airbus was selected by Malaysia’s MEASAT Global to build MEASAT-3d, a new multi-mission telecommunications satellite. Planned to be launched in 2021, it will be co-located with the Malaysian company’s MEASAT-3b satellite that also was built by Airbus. It will support MEASAT’s premium direct-to-home (DTH) video distribution services, as well as telecommunication services including 4G and 5G mobile networks in Malaysia.
Airbus provides highly-resilient military satellite communication services to governments across the Asia-Pacific region via the Skynet 5 fleet of satellites. Its land and coastal border surveillance and management systems also are in service in the region. In addition, Airbus offers Earth-observation satellite imagery distribution throughout Asia, providing institutions and partners in the region access to the Pléiades, SPOT, TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X satellites and constellations.
China is a long-standing industrial partner for Airbus, and the most visible example of this enduring relationship is an A320 final assembly line and delivery centre in Tianjin. This was set up in 2006 in a joint venture with a Chinese consortium, and was the first Airbus final assembly line located outside of Europe. It has delivered over 350 A320s since 2009. In 2015, Airbus and its local partners set up an A330 wide-body aircraft completions and delivery centre in Tianjin. The first A330 from this centre was delivered in September 2017.
In April 2019, Airbus and its local partners opened the first H135 helicopter final assembly line outside Europe in Qingdao, China. This also made Airbus the first foreign helicopter manufacturer to set up a manufacturing facility in the country. The European manufacturer also has worked with Avicopter to develop the seven-tonne AC352 (also known as the H175).
Chinese aerospace companies manufacture major parts of Airbus commercial aircraft at various facilities throughout the country. This includes 5% of the A350 XWB’s composite material parts and components in Harbin, and assembly of the A320 wing in Xi’an. An engineering centre in Beijing focuses on design work for the A350 XWB, while a training centre in the city has four full-flight simulators and also provides courses for mechanics, operation engineers, and cabin crews.
In February 2019, the company officially opened the Airbus China Innovation Centre in Shenzhen, a city widely considered to be China’s Silicon Valley. The centre will help Airbus to accelerate research and development activities in areas such as cabin experience, connectivity, new manufacturing techniques, and urban air mobility. This is Airbus’ second disruptive innovation centre worldwide after A3 in Silicon Valley.
In Bengaluru, India, the company’s engineering centre performs modelling and simulation work for Airbus programmes. In February 2019, the company inaugurated a brand-new Airbus-operated training centre for pilots and engineers in New Delhi. Starting with one A320 full-flight simulator, the centre will have the potential to house up to six simulators to meet growing demand for pilots in the country. It also will complement the company’s training centre in Bengaluru, which has trained more than 4,500 maintenance engineers since 2007.
South Korea’s KAL Aerospace and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), and a growing number of the country’s small- and medium-sized enterprises, also are key suppliers for Airbus. They produce aerostructures, including parts of the A350 XWB fuselage, wing, cargo door and landing gear, and the Sharklet wingtip device for the A320 and A330neo. Airbus and KAI also developed the Surion helicopter under the Korean Utility Helicopter programme and are partners on Korea’s Light Armed Helicopter/Light Civil Helicopter programme.
Malaysia is Airbus’ largest supply base in South East Asia, with the company’s aerospace industry manufacturing parts for the Airbus A320 Family, A330, A350 XWB and A380, as well as the A400M military airlifter. Airbus subsidiary Sepang Aircraft Engineering (SAE) focusses on narrowbody aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for the region, while Airbus Malaysia Customer Services provides 24/7 specialised aircraft engineering and repair services. In August 2019, Airbus signed a memorandum of agreement to further develop its presence in Malaysia with three new initiatives, including the expansion of SAE’s facilities, the establishment of the Airbus Malaysia Digital Initiative and an increased participation in the Aerospace Malaysia Innovation Centre (AMIC).
In Singapore, Airbus has several locally incorporated companies including the Airbus Asia Training Centre that offers flight crew training, Airbus Services Asia Pacific, which manages customer support activities in the region, and Satair Airbus Singapore Centre, which is the primary regional spare parts hub for Airbus aircraft. Airbus Helicopters Southeast Asia focusses on sales and after-sales services to customers in the region. Airbus and SIA Engineering Company have also incorporated a new Singapore-based joint venture that focuses on wide-body MRO services for the region.
Long-time Indonesian partner PT Dirgantata Indonesia manufactures parts for the A320, A350 XWB and A380 aircraft. Airbus also has worked with the company on various helicopter programmes over the last 40 years, and PT DI has also license-produced Airbus military aircraft. In addition, Airbus is the Lion Group’s partner in a flight crew training centre near Jakarta.
Major Japanese suppliers for Airbus include Jamco, Teijin, Toray, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Subaru and ShinMaywa, which produce a variety of parts for the company’s aircraft. Airbus also has partnered with Kawasaki Heavy Industries on the joint development and production of the H145/BK117 twin-engine light-utility helicopter, with more than 1,200 of the rotorcraft sold worldwide.
Over the years, through both acquisitions and organic growth, Airbus has established a presence in four MRO facilities in Australia and New Zealand and is embedded on eight defence bases in the two countries, allowing it to support the armed forces of both Australia and New Zealand. The extensive MRO capabilities allow Airbus to support the almost 600 civil and military helicopters that are in service, as well as a wide range of fixed-wing aircraft operated by the region’s defence forces.
There also are significant contributions to Airbus programmes from other parts of Asia. This includes A350 XWB galley systems and actuators and valves control systems for all Airbus programmes in the Philippines, Sharklet spars, A350 XWB components and parts for the wingtips and wing trailing edge on the A330neo in Vietnam, and composite panels for A320 Family aircraft aft belly fairings in Taiwan.
In June 2018, Airbus and Thai Airways International signed an agreement to establish a major new MRO facility at U-Tapao International Airport near Bangkok. This will be one of the most modern and extensive in the Asia-Pacific region, incorporating the latest digital technologies and advanced inspection techniques, and offering heavy maintenance and line services for all wide-body aircraft types.