China Eastern A330-300. By Rob Finlayson

In a major blow to Boeing, China Eastern Airlines (MU) has ordered 15 Airbus A330s. The new order became apparent in the same Hong Kong regulatory filing in which MU revealed it was canceling an order for 24 Boeing 787s.

The new Airbus order comprises 12 A330-200s and three A330-300s. MU said they will facilitate its international expansion.

According to the Shanghai-based carrier, the Airbus order is valued at $2.5 billion at list prices. The aircraft will be delivered between 2013 and 2015, and should boost the carrier's capacity by 9.4%.

The carrier's filing Monday revealed it was canceling an order for 24 Boeing 787s and replacing it with an order for 45 737s, citing delivery delays and a weakening economy (ATW Daily News, Oct. 18).

Industry analysts believe the A330 orders will make up for the cancellation of its Dreamliners.

Separately, MU expects to sell five A340-300s to Airbus in 2012 to save operating costs, which will reduce the carrier's capacity by 3.68%.

The large cancellation of the 787s by MU in favor of A330s is a significant development as until now airlines such as Singapore Airlines and Qantas have typically ordered more A330s but held their 787 orders intact.

While Boeing holds that it can ramp up production of the 787 from the current two a month to 10 a month by 2013, a number of key analysts have said it will take another nine months at least to reach that target (ATW Daily News, Aug. 18).