China Express Confirms Order For 100 COMAC ARJ21s & C919s

In a major boost for the Chinese aircraft industry, China Express Airlines has confirmed its intention to purchase 100 aircraft from the China Commercial Aircraft Company (COMAC), subject to approval by shareholders. The first 50 ARJ21 jets will be delivered by 2025, and the rest over the next 10 years.

China Express confirms its order for COMAC aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

Order for 50 ARJ21s confirmed

An announcement by China Express posted by the Shenzhen Stock Exchange confirms that the Chongqing-based airline has agreed in principle to purchase 50 ARJ21-700ER (extended range) aircraft from COMAC. The transaction still needs to be agreed upon at a general meeting of shareholders. If more than two-thirds vote in favor, the airline must file the purchase transaction with the relevant state departments for approval.

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In mainland China, aircraft orders usually have to receive state approval, but as COMAC is a state-owned company, there should be no problem for China Express. Once approved, the delivery schedule is for two aircraft to be delivered this year, six in 2021, eight in 2022, nine in 2023, 10 in 2024, and 15 in 2025. The price for each aircraft is $38 million, but the airline says that it has negotiated a discount with COMAC.

COMAC, China Express Airlines, C919
The ARJ21 is already in service within China. Photo: Getty Images

C919 order needs to be firmed up

While China Express signed a non-binding agreement with COMAC in June, where it stated its intention to buy 100 aircraft, it has yet to firm up the second half of its order. The other 50 aircraft could be made up of all C919s or a mix of AJR21s and C919s. The C919 is still in development and undergoing flight testing prior to certification. It’s a 160-seat aircraft designed to take on the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320.

The total value of the order is expected to be $3.8 billion. In last week’s announcement, the airline has said that it still intends to purchase the full order of 100 aircraft. The carrier will

According to, China Express currently operates a fleet of 51 aircraft with an average age of 4.3 years. The fleet is made up of 13 Airbus A320s and 38 Bombardier CRJ-900s. The airline has a further A320 on order. The announcement says the COMAC order,

“Will help the company to steadily increase the size of its aircraft fleet, enhance its operational strength, and further focus on regional aviation, [and] operate and promote business development.”

Comac C919 OTT Airlines
The COMAC C919 takes on Boeing and Airbus. Photo: Getty

COMAC takes on Boeing and Airbus

Chinese state-owned aircraft manufacturer COMAC, based in Shanghai, is steadily growing with its aircraft development. The company’s first plane, the ARJ21 is a 90-seat regional jet that is powered by GE CF34 engines, the same as those on the Bombardier CRJ900.

It first flew in 2008. It entered service with Chengdu Airlines in 2016. As of August 30, 2019, COMAC had received orders for 596 ARJ21s, and by September 29, this year, the company had delivered 34 of the aircraft to customers.

When the COMAC C919 enters service, it will be seen as a serious competitor for the B737 and A320. However, breaking the big plane makers’ duopoly will be a mammoth task.

Do you think that COMAC can challenge the big boys? let us know in the comments.