Going by the number of aircraft, China Eastern ranks sixth in the world with its 589 jets, just below China Southern in fifth place with 629. A well-established full-service carrier, China Eastern has a fairly diverse fleet with both narrowbodies and widebodies from Airbus and Boeing. Let’s take a look at the jets operated by the carrier in 2021.
China Eastern’s fleet at a glance
With 589 jets in total, the list of aircraft below, with their quantities in parentheses, comes from Planespotters.net data. It should be noted that this list is restricted to aircraft flying under the mainline China Eastern brand and excludes other subsidiaries in the greater China Eastern Group.
- A319-100 (35)
- A320-200 (178)
- A320neo (60)
- A321-200 (77)
- A330-200 (30)
- A330-300 (25)
- A350-900 (9)
- 737-700 (40)
- 737-800 (109)
- 737 MAX 8* (3)
- 777-300ER (20)
- 787-9 (3)
As you can see, the airline operates a wide variety of jets- almost every available type currently in production from the two major planemakers. Interestingly, however, some of these aircraft still aren’t able to fly…
737 MAX remains grounded in China
With the 737 MAX crisis striking in March 2019, China’s aviation authority was among the first to ground the type due to safety concerns. Shortly after, in May 2019, it was China Eastern Airlines that formally requested compensation from Boeing due to the grounding.
While aviation regulators in other parts of the world have recertified the MAX to fly passengers, this is still not the case in China. Earlier this month, we reported on a glimmer of hope for the type, as China’s aviation regulator was reportedly preparing to begin test flights for recertification.
Technically, China Eastern has 14 Boeing 737 MAX jets. Three are part of its mainline fleet, with the other 11 under its subsidiary, Shanghai Airlines.
Narrowbodies are the bulk of the fleet
Like many full-service carriers (except perhaps those in the Middle East), smaller aircraft make up a larger portion of the overall fleet. This is also very much the case for China Eastern.
In fact, if we add up the carrier’s A320 Family and Boeing 737 aircraft, the total of 557 jets represents 94.6% of the fleet.
This firmly demonstrates the strength of China Eastern’s domestic operations – and the strength of the general domestic aviation market in the country. This is something China Eastern and its fellow Chinese carriers have had to rely on, especially with the global health crisis.
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Efficient twinjet widebodies
Unlike its fellow state-owned carriers Air China and China Southern, China Eastern never ventured into the world of the A380 or 747. Despite this, the airline still has quite a diverse selection of twinjet widebodies- coming from both Airbus and Boeing in various sizes.
The carrier is continuing to grow, expecting even more efficient twinjets to join the fleet. ch-aviation.com notes that the airline has the following widebodies yet to be delivered:
- 11 Airbus A350-900s
- Three Boeing 787-9s
Outside of the mainline fleet
The China Eastern Group extends well beyond just ‘China Eastern Airlines.’ In fact, it also includes the following divisions:
- China Cargo Airlines
- China Eastern Executive Air
- China United Airlines
- OTT Airlines
- Shanghai Airlines
If we were to include the aircraft in these fleets, there would be an additional 166 jets.
While we won’t go into the details of these other subsidiaries, it is interesting to note that OTT Airlines is the operator of the Chinese-built COMAC ARJ21. Five are in service, with another 30 to be delivered.
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