Carry on: Airbus retires A380, big Boeing deal, China's first A320neo and more

Business traveller news also includes Air France ditching A380 orders and Singapore Airlines' $13.8 billion Boeing order.

Airbus puts test aircraft in museums
Airbus is to transfer four of its test aircraft to the Museum of Air and Space at Paris-Le Bourget and Aeroscopia in Toulouse. Two of them are superjumbo A380s – first flown in 2005 – and the others are an A320 and a four-engined A340-600, which is no longer in production.

The first of the A380s (MSN4) will arrive at Le Bourget, home of the Paris Air Show, on February 14. There it will be displayed at one of the world’s largest aviation museums. Eventually, a special exhibit will be created inside the aircraft’s interior to enable the greatest possible number of people to visit it from 2018.

The other three aircraft maintained by Airbus Heritage in Toulouse will move to Aeroscopia in Toulouse within the next two years. Aeroscopia has one of the original Air France supersonic Concordes, which flew between 1976 and 2003.

Air France switches A380s for A350s
Air France has swapped its remaining orders for two Airbus A380 superjumbos for three of the smaller A350s, Airbus data showed on Friday, highlighting a switch toward lighter twinjets. The cancellation of the last two of a dozen A380s originally ordered by the French flag carrier had been expected after the change was flagged in March last year. The other 10 A380s are already in operation. Removing the A380 order from its order book in a monthly update, Airbus said the French network of Air France-KLM had simultaneously ordered three A350-900 planes.

Boeing lands big Singapore order
Singapore Airlines (SIA) is making a major commitment to Boeing widebodied models on top of its large order for Airbus ultra-long range A350-900. The provisional Boeing order is for 20 777-9s and 19 787-10 Dreamliners, worth $US13.8 billion at list prices and with deliveries starting in 2021. SIA is already the launch customer for the 787-10, which is due to be unveiled in the coming week, having placed an initial order in 2013 for 30 aircraft for delivery from the 2018/19 financial year. Additional options could take the deal to as many as 51 aircraft. Analysts say the Boeing deal could mean Airbus is still deciding whether to develop a larger 400-seat version of its A350 to compete with the 406-seat 777-9. The largest A350-1000 variant seats 366 passengers. 

China to assemble first A320neo …
Airbus (Tianjin) Final Assembly Company will begin assembly of its first Airbus A320neo (new engine option) in July and deliver it in September. The plant is a joint venture involving Airbus, Aviation Industry Corporation of China and the Tianjin Free Trade zone. A320 production began in September 2008 and has delivered more than 300 A320 aircraft. The plan is to assemble four A320neos each month.

... and fly its first homegrown airliner
China's long-awaited C919 airliner will finally take to the skies in July this year, state media report. The state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) first unveiled the single-aisled, twin-engined jet in November 2015, leaving analysts wondering whether it can compete with major manufacturers such as Airbus and Boeing. The single-aisle aircraft, which can seat 168 passengers, has installed its on-board system and undertaken a series of load tests.

Jetstar becomes preferred government carrier 
Jetstar has broken into the government’s preferred travel supplier arrangement for the first time, being signed up with parent Qantas in a 10-year deal starting on March 1. Previously, only Air New Zealand was the preferred carrier for all public servants on domestic travel. Air New Zealand is expected to have its agreement extended for another 10 years, though this isn’t yet official. Jetstar competes with Air New Zealand on main trunk jet routes and its regional network of Nelson, Napier, New Plymouth and Palmerston North. Qantas remains as a preferred carrier on transtasman and international routes. Other airlines in the all-of-government list are international airliens Emirates, Etihad, LATAM, Lufthansa (including Austrian and Swiss), United, Singapore and Virgin Australia; and Sounds Air for domestic routes. 

Qatar’s Hamad airport hits 37.3 million passengers
Hamad International Airport (HIA) accomplished a new record of passenger traffic and aircraft movements in 2016, handling 37.3 million passengers and 245,800 landings and take-offs. This represents an increase of 20.5% and 15.8% respectively. On the cargo front, airfreight [cargo and mail] increased 20.8%, reaching a new high of 1.7 million tonnes for the year. During 2016, HIA also witnessed a growth in network with Qatar Airways connecting Doha directly to 14 new destinations. Auckland was added this week. 

Route news of the week
AirAsia has received US government approval for a Kuala Lumpur-Osaka Kansai-Honolulu service starting on June 28 and running four times a week. China Southern is launching a Guangzhou-Vancouver-Mexico City service from April 10. It will operate this with Boeing 787-8 aircraft, three times a week. Air New Zealand codeshare partner Aerolineas Argentinas plans a further expansion of its Buenos Aires Ezeiza-Rome service. Fifth and sixth weekly flights will run from May 2 to June 4, while the service will increase to daily by July 6. The airline will switch from an A340 to A330 from May 1.