Chengdu Airlines now has two ARJ21s; only airline in the world operating the type; flies 65 routes across China involving 45 airports

Chengdu Airlines now has two ARJ21s and 25 Airbus-1

Soon to become a (more) familiar sight in China’s skies? The COMAC ARJ21-700 has had a long gestation period having first flown in 2008. Chengdu Airlines is currently the only airline operating the type having just taken delivery of its second example. However, it is the airline’s fleet of 25 A320-series aircraft that enable the airline to rank 18th among Chinese domestic carriers in 2016.

Chengdu Airlines (IATA code EU) is the 18th biggest airline in the Chinese domestic market in 2016 according to OAG Schedules Analyser, offering over 41,000 flights between Chinese airports. With an estimated 1.20% of domestic services it ranks behind West Air in 17th place (1.34%) but ahead of Okay Airways (1.15%). The airline’s fleet consists of three 120-seat A319s, 22 150-seat A320s and two ARJ21-700s, the new Chinese-built regional jet. It is currently the only airline in the world operating the ARJ21, having taken delivery of the first aircraft in 2015 (a 90-seat single class example) and a second (in a 78-seat two-class configuration) in September of this year.

A subsidiary of Sichuan Airlines, Chengdu Airlines took on its current name in 2010 having previously flown as United Eagle Airlines since 2005. Since 2010, when it operated almost 15,000 flights, the airline has grown each year by between 10% and 30%.

Chart: Chengdu Airlines 2010-2016 Monthly seats

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser data.

Chengdu is busiest of 45 airports

Despite its name, Chengdu Airlines is not even the busiest airline at its home base. According to OAG data for the first week of December it ranks fifth in terms of weekly departures with 208 (6.8%), well behind Air China (26.7%), Sichuan Airlines (19.6%), China Eastern Airlines (12.7%) and China Southern Airlines (9.0%).

The airline’s next busiest airport is Changsha where it operates 56 departures per week across seven destinations. Chengdu Airlines currently serves a total of 45 Chinese airports, up from 39 12 months ago. Back then the airline operated on 54 airport pairs. This has increased to 65 with the airline having added 15 new routes but dropped four. The average weekly frequency has fallen slightly from 6.6 in December 2015 to 6.4 now. Eight of the 15 new routes are operated with just three or four weekly flights, while the rest are served daily.

Analysis of OAG schedule data indicates that Chengdu Airlines began five new routes at the start of the recent W16/17 season at the end of October; Changsha-Jinan, Chengdu-Xining, Haikou-Nanning, Harbin-Xining and Zhengzhou-Nanning. At 2,255 kilometres the new Harbin-Xining route is the longest yet flown by the carrier.

Chart: Chengdu Airlines's top 12 airports Weekly departures in December 2016

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser for w/c 5 December 2016.

Just four routes in all are flown more than daily with Chengdu services to Changsha, Jinan, Sanya and Zhengzhou all operating double-daily this winter.

Chengdu Airlines now has two ARJ21s and 25 Airbus-2

Although Chengdu is the airline’s main hub, only 29 of the airline’s 65 routes involve the airport. A total of 45 airports (all in China) are currently served, up from 39 a year ago.


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