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Air China to Order and Receive Six COMAC C919s in 2024

After China Eastern, Air China will be the second Chinese carrier to operate the COMAC C919.

A Comac C919 conducting high-speed taxiing (Photo: COMAC)

On December 23, Air China released an announcement stating that the company is seeking to issue more shares to raise funds for 17 new aircraft and fulfill operating liquidities. The 17 new jets consisted of 11 COMAC ARJ21-700 regional jets, which were a part of the 2019 order of 35 ARJ21, and six COMAC C919, which entered service with China Eastern in May 2023. The announcement confirmed that the C919 will be delivered to Air China in 2024, and potentially more orders from the flag carrier of China will come. Currently, three C919s are operated by China Eastern based in Shanghai.

Delivery Plan

At the moment a detailed delivery plan is still yet to be announced. Based on available information, the Air China order of six COMAC C919 will likely be delivered after the completion of China Eastern’s initial order of five. The fourth China Eastern C919 rolled out of the production line in early December, and it has been on test flights ever since. A source close to COMAC said that the manufacturer is planning to deliver the fourth C919 to China Eastern within 2023 to hit its annual delivery goal. With this information, we can anticipate that the first Air China C919 will likely be delivered in or after the second quarter of 2024.

Where is It Going to Fly?

Naturally, as Air China is headquartered in Beijing, we may assume that the Air China COMAC C919 will fly between the nation’s capital and some other destinations. However, based on observations of China Eastern’s C919 operations, it may not be the case. Air China may join China Eastern and operate its C919 between Chengdu and Shanghai.

Currently, all three C919s with China Eastern are flying on the route between Shanghai’s Hongqiao International Airport and Chengdu’s Tianfu International Airport. Both airports have COMAC facilities, and the manufacturer can quickly advise on maintenance issues of those aircraft.

With the operational observation of China Eastern C919, Air China, as the incoming new operator of C919, may also choose to fly between airports that have COMAC facilities. Currently, the only two cities where the carrier and the manufacturer’s presence overlap are Chengdu and Shanghai. Air China has bases in both Tianfu and Shuangliu airports of Chengdu, and both Hongqiao and Pudong airports in Shanghai. It’s likely that the flag carrier of the nation will fly between those airports at the beginning.

What’s Onboard?

For cabin interiors, Air China will likely follow the decoration of its Airbus’ A320 series and Boeing’s 737 series jets. For onboard Wi-Fi, there is certified equipment available for C919, and Air China may choose to install Wi-Fi units onboard as its previous installment on their Airbus A350 fleet was widely welcomed by passengers. We will continue to focus on any updates on any passenger experience of Air China’s C919.

On the service front, with the major success of China Eastern’s C919 inaugural flights, Air China may follow suit with its competitor to also prepare special onboard souvenirs and in-flight supplies.

What’s Next?

As COMAC starts to ramp up production of its C919 jet, we may see more operators of the jet both in and out of China. Two out of the big three airlines in China have all confirmed their orders of C919s, and, China Southern, the final piece may soon announce its order and delivery plans of this new jet.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2023 at 12:47 p.m. ET to correct an error in the number of Air China C919 orders. 

Lei Yan

Author

  • Lei Yan

    Lei is from Inner Mongolia, China, and now lives in Guangzhou. He grew up in an aviation family, where his passion began. During his time at Penn State University, he studied Industrial Engineering specializing in operations research, and he graduated with an honor’s thesis on airport gate assignment optimization. Now, he is a Purchasing Manager with Procter & Gamble. In his free time, he enjoys flying, reading, and wandering around the city.

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