TOULOUSE, FRANCE — Airbus, Europe's leading aerospace company, has announced plans to double its production capacity in China and strengthen its presence in the world's second-largest aviation market. The company will establish a second assembly line in China as domestic travel returns to pre-pandemic levels.

Airbus, now the largest planemaker globally, has surpassed Boeing as a supplier to China amid tensions between the U.S. and China. The company has also received approval to deliver 160 jets previously sold, though it did not secure new orders during a French state visit.

Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury highlighted the country's strong recovery during his first visit to China since the COVID-19 pandemic. The company predicts that China's air traffic will grow 5.3% annually over the next 20 years, outpacing the global average of 3.6%.

Since 2008, Airbus has been assembling its best-selling A320 family planes in Tianjin, outside the capital. The current assembly line produces four jets per month from major components shipped from Europe and supplemented by a local supply chain. The company aims to increase this to six planes per month this year.

The new plant will double this capacity, bringing the total number of Airbus assembly lines worldwide to ten, including four in Germany, two in France, and two in the United States.

Airbus' expansion in China will support its plans to increase the production of single-aisle A320neo aircraft to 75 units per month in 2026, up from 45 at the end of 2022. The company's shares increased by over 1% following the announcement.

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Airbus has also received authorization to deliver 160 aircraft to China, including 150 single-aisle jets and 10 A350s. Despite the lack of new orders, industry insiders expect Airbus to negotiate new deals during the French state visit.

In November, China finalized deals for previously ordered 140 Airbus aircraft during a visit of German prime minister Olaf Scholz. While some may see this as diplomatic maneuvering, industry officials assert that there is no double-counting between the two European visits.

Historically, China has divided jet purchases between Airbus and Boeing, but deals with the U.S. planemaker have slowed considerably in recent years due to trade and political tensions.

India, an emerging economic and strategic competitor, is likely to take notice of Airbus' plans for an assembly line in China. Last month, India's aviation minister urged both Airbus and Boeing to establish local jetliner assembly lines following record plane orders.