China Southern Airlines launched ARJ21-700 service Wednesday with an inaugural flight between Guangzhou and Jieyang, a city in eastern Guangdong province, becoming the fifth operator of the type after Air China, Jiangxi Air, Chengdu Airlines, and Genghis Khan Airlines. Planning to add a total of 35 of the type by 2024, China Southern will gradually introduce ARJ21 service from Daxing International in an effort to cement its Guangzhou-Beijing dual-hub strategy as China pushes expansion under its ambitious Belt and Road initiative, according to the airline.
The announcement comes after China’s big three—Air China, China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern Airlines—each took delivery of their first ARJ21s late last month. These deliveries stem from orders placed in August 2019, when each carrier committed to 35 aircraft, with deliveries scheduled from 2020 through 2024. Of the big three, Air China became the first to launch ARJ21 commercial service flying between Beijing to Xilinhot in Inner Mongolia on July 10. According to a company statement, Air China expects to receive a further three ARJ21 regional jets in 2020 and plans to fly from Beijing Capital International Airport to Xilinhot, Baotou, Ulanhot, and Hohhot of Inner Mongolia.
Meanwhile, China Eastern plans to use a mixed fleet of ARJ21s and C919s for its recently unveiled regional subsidiary OTT Airlines as part of a wider effort to promote China’s domestically developed regional and narrowbody jet programs. The new startup plans to serve destinations along the Yangtze River Delta—a triangle-shaped megalopolis that encompasses Shanghai municipality and the three neighboring provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Anhui. While officials declined to comment on a launch date, OTT Airlines expects to become the first operator of China’s homebuilt C919 narrowbody passenger jet. According to Comac, both OTT Airlines and China Southern will take delivery of three more ARJ21s by year-end.
China’s ARJ21 regional jet entered commercial operations in 2016 and is the country’s first domestically manufactured airliner. The latest manufacturing line at Shanghai Pudong International Airport holds the capacity to assemble 30 aircraft per year and room to create a second line to further boost production rates. To date, Comac has delivered 35 of the type to Chinese operators.