Hong Kong orders kick off with Air China's Boeing deal

The order books at the Hong Kong airshow have started to fill up after Air China signed a deal worth $1.54bn (£950m) with US planemaker Boeing.

Air China has placed an order for five Boeing 747-8 aircraft, as it seeks to expand international routes.

This deal is expected to be the first of many with top planemakers looking to tap into the fast-growing Asian market.

Asia-Pacific is forecast to become the world's largest air transport market over the next two decades.

Kong Dong, the chairman of Air China, said the company is aiming to increase it fleet size to 700 planes by 2015.

The carrier and its subsidiaries, including Shandong Airlines, have around 430 jets currently, Mr Kong said.

Bright future

Plane firms are keen to sign deals with companies such as Air China because demand for air travel is seen as expanding in Asia.

Passenger numbers in the region are likely to grow by 5.8% a year, according to Boeing rival and European planemaker Airbus.

Airbus estimates that Asia will account for 33% of all aircraft orders in the next two decades, compared with a 26% share between 1990 and 2009.

That translates into 8,560 new planes worth $1.2 trillion (£735bn), Airbus said.

Growth is expected to be powered not only by orders from commercial airlines, but also from an increasing demand for private jets, especially from China.

Mainland China's economic success has seen the rise of an affluent class that is keen to fly on private and corporate planes.

According to Airbus, Chinese customers accounted for about 25% of its business-jet sales last year.

Francois Chazelle, the company's vice president of executive and private aviation, said that at present the Middle East has a 50% share of Airbus's business-jet market.

However, China should get close to that size in "a couple of years".

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