Air China (the People’s Republic of China state airline), ordered 20 additional A350’s recently.
It already has ten and while that’s a good number, it’s not the optimal fleet harmonising and most flexible, or cost effective level for an airline of this size.
A lot has been made over the issues with the US and the Trump Administration tariff war, and those certainly would have played a role in the decision. However it’s more pragmatic solution than a political one.
More aircraft gives flexibility, allows a more or less permanent spare to be available when one goes technical and reduces the training, maintenance and spares costs, across the entire fleet.
Bringing the total up to 30 is the sweet spot for a large aircraft fleet type – costs can be reduced by as much as 15-20% over the lifetime of the airframes.
As to Airbus, they’re not saying if these 20, die for delivery between 2020 and 2022, are new or part of an undisclosed customer order already on the books.
The airline has also acquired an option to turn five of the aircraft into A350-1000’s if it decides at the final deadline point (about 6 months prior to build), that it wants them.
It’s also likely that the 10 744’s that remain in service will be replaced by the new batch of A350’s.