China Eastern sees smaller-than-expected C919 delivery this year

(Reuters) – China Eastern Airlines Corp Ltd said it expects to receive fewer C919 narrowbody planes this year than previously forecast, as it awaits certification of the local rival to the Boeing Co 737 MAX and Airbus SE A320neo.

The airline said it expects to receive only one C919, manufactured by state-owned planemaker COMAC, down from the three previously forecast.

China Eastern has placed firm orders for five of the planes, and the other four deliveries are now expected in 2023, according to half-year results released this week that provided the first update to its fleet plans since its annual report released in April.

China Eastern also placed an order with Airbus for 100 of its A320neo family planes in July for delivery from 2023 to 2027, with the bulk expected from 2024.

Daiwa analyst Kevin Lau, citing a conference call with China Eastern management on Wednesday, told clients in a note that the airline was not concerned by production issues at Airbus that have delayed deliveries to airlines and lessors in recent months because it believed its large order would give it priority.

“For the C919, China Eastern will be the first global airline to put it in commercial operation,” he said. “However, management added that new orders of the C919 would be subject to Airbus’ capacity ramp-up.”

China Eastern did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

In terms of Airbus deliveries, China Eastern’s latest forecast would see it take 19 A320neo family planes this year, 16 in 2023 and 28 in 2024. That compares with its April forecast for 22 this year, 13 in 2023 and none in 2024.

China’s aviation regulator said last month it was seeking industry feedback on special conditions for the C919, in a sign that certification is close after years of delays.

Air China Ltd and China Southern Airlines Co Ltd and many Chinese aircraft lessors have also placed orders for the C919, but none have issued a firm forecast for delivery dates.

(Reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney and Sophie Yu in Beijing; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)



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