As of the end of August, 11 mainland carriers were operating 366
Airbus aircraft with 377 still on order. Coping with a growing
customer base and providing timely, efficient support and service
to Chinese airlines will decide whether aircraft manufacturers such
as Airbus can continue their success in China.
Airbus has a network of spares and support centers in Beijing,
Frankfurt, Hamburg, Singapore and Washington, DC. It has a spares
warehouse valued at more than $30 million in Beijing and contracted
another one in Shanghai last year.
Pierre Steffen, Airbus China vice-president for customer
services, talks to China Daily about his new plan to better
serve Chinese airlines and the potential of China to grow into a
regional hub for customer service.
Q: During last year's Zhuhai Air Show, you said you planned to
add something new to the logistics of spare parts supply in China.
Could you elaborate on that plan and how it is going on?
A: We are selecting a professional logistics company, an
international company with very strong foothold in China, to
transport spare parts for Chinese airlines. Usually airlines
transport spare parts themselves, which, I believe, is not the best
Globally speaking, a lot of time is wasted during spare parts
transportation. Airlines are forced to have a very high level of
spare parts because they need to have enough spare parts to
counterbalance the negative effects of the long transportation
chain. That increases airlines' costs.
With this service, we are able to cut down transportation and
transition time, which has a direct positive effect on cutting
Q: Have you used this service in other countries?
A: The service was developed at our spares support and service
headquarters in Germany five years ago. We have introduced this
service in Europe, the US and Asia. Now we have 40 airlines using
the service globally, including Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and
Q: Do Chinese airlines welcome this service? What are their
A: I have solid commitments from senior managers of three
Chinese airlines which wish to use the service very soon.
They have the same concerns as other airlines around the world.
Most airlines want to take care of their own transportation. They
think: 'We are a transporter. So we handle our own spare parts.'
But in reality, a lot of time is wasted.
Q: Airbus has a large support center in Beijing and there are
already about 25,000 parts stored here. Is it possible for you to
turn this support center into a regional hub that serves the whole
A: We are working on that. But of course such plans develop step
In fact, over the past 12 years, our hub in Beijing has
developed great competences, particularly with the increasing
number of Chinese staff. For three years now, some of our experts
have been traveling outside China to regions such as Myanmar,
Vietnam, Siberia, Indonesia and Cambodia (to serve local
The reason is quite simple. To fly to any Asian country from
Europe, it takes at least two travel days, in and out. Then you
need to adapt to the time zone and to the climate. And you are
still not in the customer's office.
But our guys get into the plane and are in any of the Asian
capital cities in six hours. They can start with an evening
briefing with the customer. The travel is cheaper and less time is
Q: Which kind of airlines are your experts serving?
A: We are not talking about airlines such as Cathay Pacific or
Singapore Airlines, which have a lot of their own capabilities. We
are talking about airlines that have the same background as our
Chinese start-up airlines. Some of them are beginners. They have
limited infrastructure and possibly other constraints.
So to answer your previous question, yes we are already in the
regional business. We will gradually further increase our presence
in the region, concentrating on support services that make sense
Q: Are these traveling experts expatriates or Chinese?
A: Chinese. I do not have many expats anymore in my
organization. This year alone I have replaced three expatriates for
three Chinese, one to one. We are not doing any compromising. We
select the right talent in the market.
We are proud that our staff attrition rate for local employees
is below 4 percent. It's far below the industry level.
(China Daily September 26, 2007)