China Eastern Airlines on Thursday placed an order for 35 wide-body jets from Boeing Co and Airbus Group, as the Shanghai-based carrier continues to build its long-haul fleet amid the country’s outbound travel boom. Chinese airlines are adding flights to New York, Paris and Sydney from inland cities, while opening new routes to smaller cities in North America, Europe and Australia.
China Eastern, which has an equity tie up with Delta Air Line, aims to increase its market share this year on China-U.S. routes to 17 percent of total seats available, from 11 percent in 2015, according to its president Ma Xunlun. Last year, 2.56 million Chinese people travelled to the United States, while some 2.1 million Americans came to China, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce and China National Tourism Administration. This year, outbound Chinese people will exceed 3 million, as U.S. government eases its visa policies.
China Eastern, which flies to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Hawaii, is attracting more and more transit customers from North Asia and South Eastern Asia who prefer to take China Eastern flights in Shanghai to North America, according to Ma. Delivery of the 15 B787-9 and 20 A350-900 jets will start from 2018, the Shanghai-based carrier said.
Air China, China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines are also placing large aircraft orders. In October, China ordered 130 jets from Airbus during German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s China visit. China Eastern alone would have more than 800 jets in its fleet by 2020, up from around 561 as of the end of last year, Ma told Reuters in an interview earlier this month.