Adding to the list of airlines looking at buying the new and potentially cheaper made in China aircraft C919 to further expand their current fleets, Asia’s low-cost carrier AirAsia, which currently owns an all-Airbus fleet, has said that it may also consider buying the aircraft since it would be foolish to ignore new aeroplanes.
“I think as an airline you have to look at everything. We will be foolish not to look at new planes,” AirAsia Group chief executive officer Tony Fernandes said in an interview with Bloomberg Television where he was asked if his company would consider the Chinese-made C919.
Global airlines including full-fledged premium international carriers are considering adding the China made C919 aircraft to their fleets which currently have a majority of aircraft from the two globally established players Airbus and Boeing.
Willie Walsh, chief executive officer of IAG SA, the owner of British Airways, has already said the company would consider the Chinese-made aircraft. “Comac could well be an option for us,” said William Walsh, chief executive officer of IAG SA, the owner of British Airways Plc, adding he’d only seriously consider the plane when IAG reviews its existing fleet of short-haul Airbus A320-family jets in the long-term.
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Walsh, a former pilot who’s flown in the plane’s simulator, said he’s due to meet with Comac next month to further advise on features that IAG looks for in a new model. More immediately, he’s expecting lower prices from the added competition. “A new entrant will have an impact on pricing,” Walsh said earlier this month.
The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) C919 may present stiff competition to both Airbus and Boeing, as it has emerged as the major competitor to the globally established aircraft manufacturers on speculations that deep pockets of the Chinese government might make the price and performance of C919 competitive enough to dampen the sales of these two globally established players.
However, getting into the major league with Airbus and Boeing may still be a few decades away for C919 as airlines typically prefer aircraft with a proven track record, reliability and safety. COMAC is still seeking certification for the C919 from European agencies.
“There’s a lot riding on the C919,’’ said Xu Yongling, a military test pilot and a member of the Beijing-based Chinese Society of Aeronautics and Astronautics. “The expectation for the C919 is not to become the best-selling single-aisle aircraft in the market, but rather become a stepping stone for COMAC to build something better, with indigenous technology.’’