The Plane With The Panda: Inside Sichuan Airlines’ A350 Fleet

Chinese carrier Sichuan Airlines is due to take delivery of its fifth A350-900. The aircraft will be the third to feature the specially-designed panda livery first featured on the airline’s A350 back in 2018. We’ve taken a closer look at this rather unique fleet.

The Plane With The Panda: Inside Sichuan Airlines’ A350 Fleet
Sichuan Airlines operates a fleet of A350-900s, some of which have a special panda livery. Photo: Airbus

History of the Panda routes

Sichuan Airlines first launched its panda route back in 2018. And it isn’t just the livery that featured the cute, furry bears. The original daily route connecting Beijing and Chengdu also had panda-inspired uniforms for crew members, panda-inspired meals, and even panda headrests. Who doesn’t want to eat a panda cupcake while wearing a relaxing panda eye mask?

While the panda obsession might sound like a gimmick, it’s actually for a good cause. The eight pandas that can be found on the aircraft livery are actually representative of the three pandas the airline adopted from the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

The Plane With The Panda: Inside Sichuan Airlines’ A350 Fleet
Panda-themed rice for dinner on the Panda routes Photo: Sichuan Airlines

The Sichuan province in China is considered the home of the Giant Panda. The city of Chengdu is home to Sichuan Airlines and the largest panda breeding center in the world. The airline is working to fund and support the protection of China’s well-loved bear. A panda named 3U, nicknamed You You, is the official mascot of the panda route.

The Plane With The Panda: Inside Sichuan Airlines’ A350 Fleet
How many Pandas are too many pandas? According to the economy seats, you can never have too many! Photo: Sichuan Airlines

The A350 fleet

The original panda A350-900 (Reg B-301D) is now operating a route to Vancouver, while a second A350-900 (Reg B-306N) in matching panda livery operates a route connecting Chengdu with Jinan. All in all, the airline currently has four A350-900 in its fleet. Only two so far have the panda livery with the new arrival the third to have the panda honor.

The airline does have an order for ten in total, so several more will likely join the airline over the coming years. How many will have the panda livery is not known. The airline operates an exclusively Airbus fleet and currently uses its A350s on many international and domestic routes.

Each A350 is configured with 28 business class seats and 303 economy seats. Of course, the interiors are slightly different on the Panda routes with panda-themed soft furnishings, food, and amenities.

The Plane With The Panda: Inside Sichuan Airlines’ A350 Fleet
The airline’s first A350-900 joined the fleet in 2018. It was also the first with the panda livery. Photo: Sichuan Airlines

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A stand-out experience

The A350 has been very popular in China since day one. Recently, China operated the most A350 flights worldwide, so traveling on an A350 isn’t hard to do. The A350-900 variant is easily the most popular of the bunch and proving to be a favorite with passengers.

The widebody is quiet, comfortable, and with all the modern technology. It’s no wonder Chinese airlines use it on domestic and international routes. However, if you’re looking for a slightly different experience, the A350 panda routes with Sichuan Airlines are certainly a unique experience.

Have you ever flown on the panda routes? We’d love to hear from you if you have.