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China’s OTT Airlines to Launch on Dec. 28

A China Eastern A330. China’s government is easing restrictions on foreign carriers flying into the country. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fabian Behr)

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, China hasn’t stopped developing its aviation industry. A brand-new carrier, OTT Airlines, will be launched on Dec. 28. However, the airline hasn’t revealed any maiden flight details thus far. OTT will provide only regional services and will be based at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport.

OTT a subsidiary of China Eastern Airlines and will be using MU as its IATA designator, which is the same as the parent company. According to Chinese media, OTT is going to own an entirely-Chinese-manufactured fleet. Three Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) ARJ21-700 aircraft have been delivered already and 32 more ARJ21 planes are expected to be delivered by 2024. ARJ21 planes have capacity for 78-90 passengers with a range of 2,225 to 3,700 km.

In the next five years, the airline is also planning to own 20 COMAC C919 aircraft, the narrow aircraft also designed by COMAC. Earlier, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) approved the C919 to enter the final testing phase in Nanchang. The aircraft can carry 158 to 168 passengers with a range of 4,075-5,555 km.

C919s are expected to begin mass production by 2021. According to local media, the C919 has more than 1,000 orders with buyers mostly coming from China.

As coronavirus cases have fallen significantly in China, the Chinese domestic market is seeing a speedy recovery after the pandemic. In October, the national holiday saw 91% of passenger counts compared to the same time last year with an average 79% load factor. In addition, CAAC has reviewed the total flight hour in the country was 89.7 thousand in November, a nearly-89% recovery compared to the same time last year. According to China Eastern Airlines, domestic capacity was down 14.5% in November compared to the same time last year.

However, due to travel restrictions, international travel has declined by 98%.

Meanwhile, CAAC has reviewed its “Circuit Breaker Measure” policy. Earlier this year, the Chinese government tried to contain the spread of Covid-19 as it rolled out its “Circuit Breaker Measure” for international travel. According to CAAC, an airline’s specific route will be forced to suspend services for two weeks when five or above passengers on a same flight test positive for the coronavirus upon arrival. The flight will be suspended for four weeks if at least 10 passengers test positive.

For example, as a result of 14 passengers testing positive for the Covid19 on Dec. 11, Aeroflot flight SU208 from Moscow-Shanghai will be suspended from flying to China for eight weeks. The route has broken the rule for the fourth time. However, Aeroflot’s other routes to China will not be affected. CAAC has urged the Russian-based airline to refund the affected passengers as soon as possible.

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