Xiamen Airlines in talks to buy 30 Boeing 737 MAXs

Xiamen Airlines is in talks with US planemaker Boeing to purchase 30 737 MAXs, a company official said on Friday -- an order worth up to $3.2 billion at list prices.

The order discussions come as industry players race to capture China's fast-growing air-travel market propelled by an increasingly affluent middle class. Xiamen Air announced an order of 40 Boeing 737-800s two weeks earlier.

"Regarding the 30 Boeing MAX planes, we are still in discussions," said a public-relations official surnamed Qiu, speaking by phone from the southeastern city of Xiamen.

The company has also considered purchasing A320neo planes from Boeing's European rival Airbus, but is not currently in talks with that maker, Qiu said, adding that the timetable for any deal was still uncertain.

Xiamen Airlines, which is set to join the Skyteam alliance this year, operates an all-Boeing fleet of six 757s and 77 next-generation 737s.

It will receive the 40 planes it ordered earlier this month between 2016 and 2019, pending government approval, it said at the time, and plans to expand its operational fleet to 200 planes by the end of 2020, according to Boeing.

The short-haul 737 MAX, Boeing's latest set of planes, will be available at the end of 2017, according to the company website.

Beijing-based Boeing spokesperson Wang Yukui said the company does not comment on ongoing discussions with customers.

The head of Airbus parent company EADS said in March that China had blocked purchases of its planes in response to an EU-imposed airline carbon tax, which China and two dozen other countries have opposed.

"Airbus is subjected to retaliation measures," EADS chief executive Louis Gallois said at a press conference. "The Chinese government rejects (refuses) to approve airlines' orders for long-range airplanes."

The Emissions Trading Scheme took effect this year, levying a fee for airlines flying to or from the EU that exceed their carbon allowance, though the first bills will not be sent until 2013.

China's aviation watchdog in February forbade Chinese airlines from participating in the scheme, which is meant to cut carbon emissions by a fifth by 2020.

The airline industry group IATA has warned that a broader trade war could emerge in which governments and airlines refuse to purchase European planes and aviation equipment or to give European carriers overflight permission.

by Lawrence Bartlett © 2012 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Aug 17, 2012