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Aircraft MRO service firm eyes travel rebound

China Daily|Updated: June 29, 2023

Bullish on 2023 performance, HAECO Xiamen ups efforts amid rising demand

Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Co Ltd Xiamen, one of the foremost service providers for aircraft maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) in the Asia-Pacific region, said it expects its business performance this year to surpass pre-COVID levels, fueled by growing demand for aircraft maintenance services worldwide.

Benefiting from the recovery of global air travel after COVID-19, demand for aircraft maintenance around the world has surged, and HAECO Xiamen has seen booming business. So far this year, its facility has greeted more than 100 aircraft that arrived in Xiamen, Fujian province, in East China from overseas markets.

Founded in 1993, the company has completed maintenance services for more than 4,000 aircraft since the company's first aircraft redelivery in 1996. Among the aircraft it has maintained and repaired were more than 1,000 Boeing B747 widebody planes, it said.

"Since the pandemic emerged, the aircraft maintenance and repair sector has faced significant challenges, as most of our business involves international carriers. Last year, our business started to pick up fast as international travel gradually resumed," said Li Zhenglin, vice-president of HAECO Xiamen.

"As a one-stop service provider of aircraft maintenance and repair, we have also set up a technical training and examination center for license granting to help meet demand for technical and nontechnical training in the Asia-Pacific region," Li said.

Based at Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport, the facility has six hangars, which are capable of simultaneously accommodating 12 widebody aircraft and five narrow-body aircraft. The facility provides comprehensive services including airframe maintenance, modification, cabin reconfigurations, parts manufacturing, technical training and passenger-to-freighter conversions.

The company said it has substantial experience in cabin modification for airlines and private jets. It has completed over 620 such projects for customers globally, and played an instrumental role in every major cabin modification project for Cathay Pacific Group.

In the first four months, Xiamen Customs supervised 75 inbound aircraft for maintenance, which accounted for 37.3 percent of the total number of inbound aircraft for maintenance in China, the highest proportion nationwide.

During the same period, the import and export value of bonded aircraft maintenance outside the regulatory area reached 54.1 billion yuan ($7.5 billion), surging 26-fold year-on-year, said Xiamen Customs.

HAECO Xiamen's main shareholders include Xiamen Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Japan Airlines and US aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. The company cooperates with global carriers from different regions including Europe, North America and Southeast Asia.

Xiamen has been a trading port since the ancient times as well as a gateway for China's opening-up and external cooperation. It is also one of the four earliest special economic zones set up in the country.

"As one of the earliest special economic zones established in China, Xiamen enjoys some preferential tax policies, especially for Sino-overseas joint ventures that engage in production and operational services in the Chinese mainland," Li said.

With COVID-19 restrictions removed in all major markets, the global air travel market is expected to reach 87.8 percent of the 2019-level of revenue passenger kilometers this year, with strengthening passenger traffic as the year progresses, according to the latest projection by the International Air Transport Association.

For the Asia-Pacific region, industry recovery is underway following the pandemic. A sharp rise in both passenger volume and capacity is expected to be reflected in a sizeable improvement in 2023 financial results, the IATA said.