The Asia-Pacific is a core market for Airbus and its divisions, with the company enjoying success in every area of its business. Today the region accounts for a third of the European manufacturer’s total order book and a third of its revenues.
Airbus has entrenched industrial partnerships in the Asia-Pacific, 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.
Over the last 50 years, Airbus aircraft have become a mainstay of airline fleets across the Asia-Pacific. The company’s commercial aircraft product line – the latest addition to the Airbus single-aisle A220 Family, the best-selling A320 Family, the versatile and highly-popular A330 widebody, the new widebody A350 XWB, and the A380 – have helped to facilitate connectivity, trade and economic growth within the region and outside it.
As of October 2020, there were over 4,000 Airbus aircraft in the fleets of more than 100 operators across Asia and the Pacific. Another 2,100 aircraft were on order with airline customers from the region for future delivery, representing 35% of the company's backlog. The company is a leader in the widebody market, with some 900 aircraft being part of the fleet of around 90 airlines in the region, and around 280 more widebody aircraft are on order for future delivery.
The region remains a core market for the A380 throughout the years, with over 70 aircraft on firm order and more than 60 in service with Asia-Pacific airlines, as of October 2020. These include All Nippon Airways, 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 with over 610 aircraft in the fleets of around 60 airlines in the region. Asia-Pacific customers for the A330neo, the updated version of the popular widebody jet, include AirAsia X, Aircalin, BOC Aviation, and Garuda Indonesia.
There are orders for over 320 A350 XWB aircraft from 20 leading Asia-Pacific carriers, representing around a third of all orders for the type. There are 16 airlines in the region with A350 XWBs in their fleets: Air China, Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Fiji Airways, Hainan Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Philippines Airlines, Japan Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways International and Vietnam Airlines.
The A350 XWB has been especially popular on long-haul services to Europe, Africa and the U.S., as well as key routes within Asia-Pacific. In September 2018, Singapore Airlines started to receive its seven A350-900 Ultra Long Range (URL) aircraft. This enabled the re-launch of non-stop services from Singapore to New York, which are today the world’s longest commercial flights. As of end 2018, the A350-900ULR also has been deployed on non-stop services to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The A320 Family is extremely popular throughout the region, with over 3,200 aircraft in the fleet of nearly 90 airlines in both the full service and low-cost sectors. These have been deployed on a variety of operations, ranging from high-density domestic routes to medium-haul services within the region and to points outside it. In addition, there are over 1,800 A320 Family aircraft in order for future delivery at airlines. This makes the A320 Family the clear leader in the region’s single-aisle market.
The A220 Family is the latest addition to the Airbus single-aisle family. Korean Air’s first A220-300 entered into commercial service in January 2018, making it the first Asian operator of the new-generation aircraft. The carrier had received 10 A220-300s as of October 2020 to be deployed on domestic and international services. Air Vanuatu ordered two A220-100s and two A220-300s in February 2019, making it the launch customer of the A220 in the region.
More than 2,000 Airbus helicopters operate in the Asia-Pacific, making the company a key supplier of rotorcraft to the region’s militaries, as well as civil and para-public operators. In particular, the company is a leader in the civil and para-public segment with 37% of the total Asia-Pacific fleet. This includes rotorcraft across the company’s product line, ranging from the intermediate single-engine H120/H125, through to the twin-engine H130/H135 and the heavy-lift H225.
Recent key successes in the para-public market include a contract for 100 H135s 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.
Japan’s largest Super Puma operator, Japan Coast Guard, ordered two additional H225 helicopters in April 2020, bringing its Super Puma fleet to 15, while the country’s National Police Agency grew its fleet with one H225 and four H135 in June 2020. South Korea’s National 119 Rescue Headquarters made an additional order of two H225 helicopters that will expand its all-Airbus fleet to six by the end of 2020. The Royal Thai Police became the launch customer for the H175 when the service received the two aircraft in 2017. In July 2020, the Western Australia Police Force ordered the country’s first five-bladed H145 helicopter. Airbus also is a leader in the Philippines, with 87 Airbus helicopters operating in the country.
Airbus also has been successful in the defence segment. This includes a contract for 12 H225Ms for the Royal Malaysian Air Force, the H225M, AS565 MBe, AS550 and AS555 for the Indonesian defence forces, and the H225M, H135, H145M, and H175 for Thailand. Australia selected the H135 for its helicopter aircrew training system, with deliveries completed in 2017. In 2016, the company also won a contract for the H225M from Singapore’s Ministry of Defence to meet the country’s future medium lift requirements.
Over 150 Airbus light and medium tactical aircraft (C212, CN235 and C295) are in service in the region. These 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 with a full squadron.
These have been successfully deployed on transport and humanitarian missions. Airbus has signed a letter of intent (LOI) 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 (RAAF), which became the platform’s launch operator in June 2011, received all five aircraft by November 2012. A follow-on order for two more platforms was placed in 2015.
Singapore confirmed an order for the Airbus A330 MRTT in March 2014, receiving its first next-generation tanker aircraft in September 2018. South Korea picked the A330 MRTT in a landmark June 2015 decision, with all four delivered to the Republic of Korea Air Force in 2019.
A400M Royal Malaysian Air Force First Flight
In the space business, Airbus actively works with countries across the Asia-Pacific 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, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Since 1980, the company also has supplied space equipment for geostationary and low earth orbit spacecraft operators in Japan, Singapore, and South Korea. Airbus also has helped to launch satellites for countries including Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea.
In July 2020, Airbus secured a contract for a fully reconfigurable telecommunications satellite from Australia’s second largest telecommunications company and leading satellite operator Optus.
Airbus provides military satellite communication services to governments in the Asia-Pacific via the Skynet 5 fleet of satellites. Its land and coastal border surveillance and management systems also are in service in the region. Airbus also 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 to be located outside Europe. It has delivered over 350 A320s since 2009. In 2015, Airbus and its local partners set up an A330 widebody aircraft completions and delivery centre in Tianjin. The first A330 from this centre was delivered in September 2017.
Airbus and its local partners opened a H135 helicopter final assembly line in Qingdao in April 2019. This will be the first rotorcraft final assembly line to be established by a non-Chinese aerospace firm in the country. The company also has worked with Avicopter to develop the 7-tonne AC352 (also known as the H175).
Chinese aerospace companies also manufacture major parts of Airbus commercial aircraft at various facilities throughout the country. This includes 5% of the A350’s composite material parts and components in Harbin, and assembly of the A320 wing in Xian. An engineering centre in Beijing focuses on design work for the A350, while a training centre in the city has four full-flight simulators and also provides courses for mechanics, operation engineers, and cabin crews.
In November 2017, the company announced plans to set up the Airbus China Innovation Centre in Shenzhen, a city widely considered to be the Silicon Valley of China. This centre will help Airbus to accelerate research and development activities in areas such as in-flight experience, connectivity, new energy, and urban air mobility (UAM).
In Bangalore, India, the company’s engineering centre performs modelling and simulation work for Airbus programmes. The sixth Airbus-operated training centre in the world will open in New Delhi in 2018 with two A320 full-flight simulators, and have the potential to go up to six simulators to meet growing demand. It also will have the capability to train engineers.
South Korea’s KAL Aerospace and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), and a growing number of the country’s small-and-medium 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.
Malaysian suppliers manufacture parts for the entire Airbus commercial aircraft product line, as well as the A400M military airlifter. These include CTRM, the fifth largest supplier to Airbus of composite structures. Airbus subsidiary Sepang Aircraft Engineering (SAE) focuses on narrowbody aircraft MRO services for the region, while Airbus Malaysia Customer Services provides 24/7 specialised aircraft engineering and repair services. The company also has a major regional helicopter MRO centre at Subang.
Singapore is Airbus’ regional hub for its commercial aircraft, defence, space and helicopter businesses. Located at Singapore’s Seletar Aerospace Park, the new campus covers an area of 51,000 square metres. It is an extension of an existing site, housing the Airbus Asia Training Centre (AATC), a joint venture between Airbus and Singapore Airlines, and the company’s Asia-Pacific spare parts distribution facility, operated by Airbus subsidiary Satair.
Long-time Indonesian partner PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PT DI) 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 also has license-produced Airbus military aircraft. Airbus is also 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, who produce a variety of parts for the company’s aircraft. Airbus also has partnered 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.
Airbus also has four maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities in Australia and New Zealand, allowing the company to support some 600 civil and military helicopters that are in service in the Pacific, as well as a wide range of fixed-wing aircraft operated by the region’s defence forces. The company also is embedded on eight defence bases in Australia and New Zealand, allowing it to support the armed forces in both countries.
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 components and parts for the wing tips and wing trailing edge on the A330neo in Vietnam, and composite panels for A320 Family aircraft aft belly fairings in Taiwan.
Innovation is part of the Airbus DNA, and the Asia-Pacific has a big role to play in this with several projects underway in the region. These allow the company to tap the growing interest in aerospace research and development activities in the region, access a large pool of well-educated and skilled engineers and students, and build on the support of Asian governments for these projects and activities.
The Airbus China Innovation Centre (ACIC) is the first innovation centre set up by Airbus in Asia-Pacific. Located in Shenzhen, which is known as the “Silicon Valley” of China, ACIC is undertaking research and development activities in several areas including hardware lab, cabin experience, connectivity, manufacturing innovation, and UAM.
Airbus has set up its third BizLab, the company’s global aerospace accelerator which focuses on identifying and supporting start-ups and entrepreneurs, in Bengaluru, India. This brings BizLab closer to 2,300 start-ups in India, South East Asia and Israel. BizLab India has begun working with start-ups with innovative ideas on areas including data analytics, artificial intelligence, factories of the future, smart energy, cybersecurity, supply chain, blockchain, space technology, and UAM.
Singapore also is a strategic partner for innovation projects in partnership with the country’s universities and government agencies. Two major projects currently are underway – Skyways and Hangar of the Future. Skyways, which was launched in February 2016, aims to develop safe and viable unmanned aerial parcel delivery solutions that can address future logistics needs of cities around the world. The Hangar of the Future, which also was launched 2016, focuses on harnessing digital technologies to reboot the MRO business in order to reduce costs and increase the operational efficiency of airlines.
In Japan, teams are researching ways to change the aerospace business in support of the Airbus digital transformation strategy. This includes projects involving Skywise, a cloud-based data platform which helps to enhance the operational reliability of Asia-Pacific airlines. Partnerships with start-ups and companies in the region are undertaking research in areas including advanced batteries, connectivity and automated drive, new materials developments, artificial intelligence, data mining, and the Internet of Things. Airbus and its Japanese partners also are researching the use of humanoid robotics technology for complex manufacturing tasks.