Airbus apologises after some foreign visitors barred from entering aircraft at Singapore Airshow


The German Air Force's Airbus A400M was among 38 aircraft on display at the air show on Feb 24 and 25. - Reuters

SINGAPORE: European plane-maker Airbus has issued an apology after some Chinese visitors at the Singapore Airshow said they were denied access to an Airbus military transport aircraft on Feb 24.

The A400M, a four-engine turboprop plane, was among 38 aircraft on display at the air show on Feb 24 and 25, when the event was open to the public. The aircraft belongs to the German Air Force.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, a spokesperson for Airbus noted that the company was aware of the incident, and immediately communicated and coordinated with its customer, the German Air Force, and Airbus teams to ensure that the plane was open to all visitors for the rest of the show.

“We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused,” said the spokesperson.

In a video posted to Weibo, a Chinese social media platform, on Feb 24, a crew member sporting an Airbus lanyard and name tag asked Weibo user Qian Zhan Qi Fei, who was queuing to enter the A400M, for his nationality. The crew member said she needed to check on visitors’ nationalities because the A400M is a “German aircraft”.

After finding out that the user was from China, she told him it was “not possible” for him to enter the plane, claiming this was because of “German rules” and “military restrictions”.

The user wrote in a separate Weibo post on Feb 24 that Russian visitors were also not allowed to board, and at least five Chinese nationals were stopped from entering the A400M.

Another user, who goes by the handle PLAN_DDG172, said he was chased out of the A400M by staff who told him: “Chinese, go out.”

ST has approached both Weibo users for comment.

A German Air Force spokesman told ST: “According to the information we have, there were no access restrictions to the A400M by German soldiers at the Singapore Airshow... We’re not aware of any involvement of German soldiers in the possible removal of Russian or Chinese citizens from the A400M.”

The spokesman referred ST to Airbus’ defence and space division, which he said was responsible for the activities at the air show.

When asked about the German Air Force’s response, the Airbus spokesperson said the firm would “unfortunately not be able to comment further” and referred ST to its earlier statement.

In a statement posted to Weibo on Feb 24, Airbus said it has “always been committed to being a trusted long-term partner” to China’s aviation industry.

It said it has been investing continuously in China, citing its wide-body completion and delivery centre in Tianjin, its aircraft lifecycle services centre in Chengdu and its research centre in Suzhou as examples.

China is a major market for Airbus. By the end of the first quarter of 2023, there were more than 2,100 Airbus aircraft in service in China, representing over half the market, reported publisher Aviation Week Network.

When contacted about the incident, Experia, the organiser of the Singapore Airshow, said it was “made aware” of the matter and access into the aircraft was “fully under the control of the exhibitor”.

The biennial air show returned to its full scale for the first time in six years, after Covid-19 disrupted the 2020 and 2022 editions. It drew nearly 60,000 trade visitors from Feb 20 to 23, and about 60,000 public visitors on Feb 24 and 25. - The Straits Times/ANN

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