Airbus Delivers First A319neo To China Southern

China Southern’s first A319neo is registered B-328A.
Credit: Airbus

SINGAPORE—Airbus has delivered the first A319neo to China Southern Airlines, which becomes the first commercial operator of the shortened A320neo family aircraft. 

The Guangzhou-based airline only ordered two A319neo. The aircraft is expected to be deployed on routes to so-called high-altitude destinations, mainly around China’s mountainous southwesterly regions. China Southern’s A319neo is configured in three-class layout with four seats in business, 24 in premium economy and 108 in economy. 

The Aviation Week Network Fleet Discovery database shows Airbus has 61 A319neo in its backlog, the largest order coming from Spirit Airlines for 31 aircraft. 

China Southern is not the only carrier in China to have ordered the A319neo. Flag-carrier Air China is expecting four of the type with deliveries expected to begin from Q2 this year. 

According to flight-tracking provider Flightradar24, the aircraft has made a stopover in Nur-Sultan, Kazakstan, on its delivery flight from Hamburg to China. 

Sales of the A319neo have been lackluster so far. The lack of appetite among airlines for the type can be partly attributed to the aircraft’s similar performance with numerous large regional commercial jets such as the Embraer E2-series, COMAC’s C919 and Airbus’ own A220. 

The A220 is yet to fully penetrate the Asia-Pacific market. Despite promising operating conditions, the only client in the region so far is Korean Air, which has 10 A220s in service. The aircraft is also not yet certified in China. 

“Typically, newer aircraft get the attention of the authorities the certification authorities in China when there is a customer, and we believe that we are seeing crystallizing demand, including from some customers in the region,” Airbus CCO Christian Scherer told media in February ahead of the Singapore Airshow. “I’m hopeful that the A220 will be a relevant topic for us in China.”

Chen Chuanren

Chen Chuanren is the Southeast Asia and China Editor for the Aviation Week Network’s (AWN) Air Transport World (ATW) and the Asia-Pacific Defense Correspondent for AWN, joining the team in 2017.


We know full well the meaning of ordering TWO units of anything in China, whether a High Speed Train, an Aircraft, a computer... or a refrigerator. Whatever the stated reason which fools nobody, a sub-fleet of two units is not viable anywhere, especially in China. The aim is to dissect the beast, steal the technology and copy it, whether to increase China's knowledge or to quickly produce a cheaper competitor to the item purchased.

Luckily, in this case as in many others, China is proving to be a mediocre paper tiger. Its aerospace industry has been trying for over 10 years (and failing) to produce an aircraft similar to the A320, a 30 year-old technology, and they have proven unable to design and manufacture pieces made of curved metal.

Further shame, China has had to join forces with the Russian industry (of Sukhoi Superjet fame) to conceive a long-range passenger jet. While Russian aircraft are sturdy and can do their job, not a single one can be produced and/or operated at a profit. In 1991, 100% of the Soviet Union's passenger jets were locally conceived and made. Thirty years later it is close to... ZERO at least for the larger Russian airlines and for international routes.

To make a long story short, Airbus, Boeing and Embraer have nothing to fear from heavy equipment and transports competition in Russia or China, probably for another 20 years at least.

Didn't the Chinese invent the term "Paper Tiger"? Yes, they did.
They seem to have become thrifty... At least for the A380 they had purchased FIVE (same airline). Some were used, some not (B-6136, the first delivered has practically not been seen since its delivery in 2011).

Since it likely hasn't crashed it must have been dissected into small pieces and deep-studied but it still seems unlikely that a Chinese competitor will be offered any time soon. China Southern has just announced that it was retiring the type.