Airbus planes built in a Chinese factory will be sold only to Chinese clients, the European plane maker said Monday, although a leasing exception could see aircraft end up with foreign airlines.
Airbus sought to clarify its China operations after the Chinese press described a deal with a leasing firm as evidence the Airbus factory in Tianjin was shipping its planes overseas.
"Chinese purchases will fuel the factory in Tianjin, but when a Chinese airline-leasing firm has operating clients elsewhere in the world, it can deliver to those customers," an Airbus spokesman said, adding that such purchases would be "marginal".
Under the terms of a 2005 agreement on the creation of a Chinese assembly line, Chinese-built planes are supposed to be sold exclusively into a domestic market.
Airbus agreed to the leasing exemption before signing a tentative agreement last week with its Chinese partner, Aviation Industry Corporation of China, that would extend the life of the Tianjin line by at least 10 years to 2026 and assemble the newer A320neo model.
Airbus chief Fabrice Bregier told French financial newspaper Les Echoes that the leasing firm ICBC would soon provide an A320 to Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia.
On August 30, China signed a $3.5 billion deal to buy 50 A320 Airbus jets.
Airbus planes are built in Toulouse in France, Hamburg in Germany, and Tianjin, with parts made in France, Germany, Spain and Britain.
Airbus announced in July it would open its second aircraft assembly plant outside of Europe in the US state of Alabama.