Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways parent IAG, has said China's indigenously developed 168-seat C919 jet represents a serious challenge for Airbus SAS and Boeing Co. Walsh said the Shanghai-based Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (Comac) showed him blueprints for the aircraft on a visit to that country six weeks ago.
Comac plans to produce the jet by 2016.
''My view is you have a real competitor,'' Walsh told a meeting of Airbus engineers at Toulouse, France. ''The C919 looks very good on paper. There's a lot of improvement in fuel consumption and environmental performance.''
Walsh didn't say if his company would consider placing an order.
British Airways, which merged with Spain's Iberia in January to form International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, signed a memorandum with Comac at the 2010 Farnborough Air Show agreeing to initiate talks about ''future aircraft needs.''
As one of the world's largest carriers, a switch by IAG from either Boeing or Airbus to Comac could be a significant development and a breakthrough for the Chinese firm.