In the late 1990s and early 2000s, airlines in China were consolidated and deregulated to make the industry more efficient and competitive. Still the Chinese airline industry remains fragmented. There are more than a couple dozen different airlines operating in China. The small airlines generally operate a few routes in a particular region of China. Airline companies in China generally do not perform very well and they have been hit hard in recent years by high fuel costs and increased competition. Foreign ownership is restricted to less than 50 percent.

Biggest airlines based in China bases on Destinations destinations
1) Name (IATA) — destinations
2) China Eastern (China Eastern Airlines) (MU) — 222 destinations
3) China Southern (China Southern Airlines) (CZ) — 193 destinations
4) Air China (CA) — 188 destinations
5) Shenzhen Air (Shenzhen Airlines) (ZH) — 115 destinations
6) Hainan (Hainan Airlines) (HU) — 108 destinations
7) Si Chuan (Sichuan Airlines) (3U) — 86 destinations
8) Shanghai Air (Shanghai Airlines) (FM) — 75 destinations
9) Xiamen Air (Xiamen Airlines) (MF) — 63 destinations
10) Shandong (Shandong Airlines) (SC) — 60 destinations
11) Juneyao Airlines (HO) — 53 destinations
12) China SSS (9C) — 50 destinations
13) China United (KN) — 48 destinations
14) Huaxia (G5) — 39 destinations
15) West China (West Air China) (PN) — 35 destinations
16) Lianhang (China United Airlines) (HR) — 2 destinations
17) Spray (GX Airlines) (GBG) — 1 destinations
18) Hebei Air (Hebei Airlines) (HBH) — 1 destinations
19) Grand China (Grand China Air) (GDC) — 1 destinations
20) Tianjin Airlines (GCR) — 1 destinations
21) Fuzhou Airlines (FZA) — 1 destinations [Source:]
There are others. Tibet Airlines is a regional airline based in Lhasa. It has a fleet of 39 planes, including 28 A319s, according to

China approved the formation of privately-owned carries in 2004 and started to deregulate its civil aviation in August 2005. At that time domestic investors were allowed to invest in six local carriers, including Shanghai Airlines, but were barred for investing in the three largest airlines: Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines. Among the smaller and newer airlines in the late 2000s were Xiamen Airlines, Hainan Airlines, and Sichuan Airlines. Yunnan-based Kunming Airlines and Hebei-based Dazhong Airlines received permission to begin operating in 2005. China approved the formation of privately-owned carries in 2004. Later some low-fare carrier were created. Okay Airlines was China’s first private operator.

China had 57 airlines at the end of 2015, only 12 of which were regional carriers, according to a report from the Shanghai Aircraft Design Research Institute. Feeder routes operated by regional airlines are often less profitable and face stiff competition from China's fast expanding high-speed rail network. [Source: Brenda Goh, Allison Lampert and Brad Haynes, Reuters, December 18, 2016]

East Star airlines was the first Chinese carrier to go bankrupt. The Wuhan-based airline filed for bankruptcy in August 2009. As of 2009 only two private airlines had been given permission to offer international flights — 1) East Star, given permission in 2007 but bankrupt by 2009. and 2) Shanghai-based Spring Airlines, given permission in July 2009. At least for a while the largest shareholder in Hainan Airlines was U.S. financier George Soros.

Major Chinese Airlines

China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, and Air China, are the main airlines in China. China’s three main air carriers have come a long way in a short period. Not long ago they were inefficient, state-owned, money-losing enterprises. These days they are rapidly expanding companies that issue shares and are modernizing their fleets. Obstacles they still face including requirements to buy fuel at fixed prices from a government agency and flying routes at a predesignated altitude which prevents them from saving money by flying at a higher altitude. As WTO and trade agreements with other countries start to kick in they will have to start competing with international carriers.

Top Airlines in Asia by passengers carried
1) China Southern Airlines: 96.9 million in 2020; 151.6 million in 2019;139.8 million in 2018: Passenger fleet: 626; destinations: 216.
2) China Eastern Airlines: 71.9 million in 2020; 130 million in 2019; 121.1 million in 2018. Passenger fleet: 588; destinations: 248. SkyTeam Alliance
3) Air China” 115.0 million in 2019; 109.7 million in 2018. Passenger fleet: 456; destinations: 201. Star Alliance
6) Hainan Airlines: 79.9 million in 2018. Passenger fleet: 221; destinations; 110. [Source: Wikipedia]

China's three biggest airlines reported huge losses in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19. China was virtually shut off from international markets during the pandemic as already reduced flights get suspended under its "circuit breaker" system when there are COVID-19 positive arrivals, leaving many passengers stranded abroad. At one one point more than two-thirds of planned flights were cancelled every day across China. [Source: Reuters, March 31, 2022]

Market share of China’s air passenger market in 2003: 1) China Southern (33.6 percent); 2) Air China (26.8 percent); 3) China Eastern (21.8 percent); 4) China Sky (8.5 percent); 5) Hainan Airlines (7.1 percent); 6) Others (2.2 percent).

China Southern Airlines

China Southern Airlines is the largest airline in China and Asia in terms of revenue, fleet size, and scheduled passengers carried. According to OAG it was the largest airline in the world in 2020. Based in Guangzhou, the company was founded in 1988 after the Chinese government decentralized and restructured the state-owned CAAC Airlines into four different domestic airlines. The company'srevenues were $22.3 billion and its net income were $480 million in 2019 . It has market cap of $13.39 billion. Website: www.

China Southern is known for sometimes haphazard service, with flights delayed or canceled with little notice. The airline says it operates more than 2,000 flights a day to 224 destinations in 40 countries and regions in Asia, Europe, North America and Africa. It says it carried 115 million passengers in 2016. [Source: Joe McDonald, Associated Press, March 28, 2017]

China Southern Airlines became the world's largest airline in 2020, based on number of passengers, surpassing U.S carriers Delta and American Airlines when they were hurt badly by the coronavirus pandemic while the domestic aviation market in China was relatively unfazed. China Southern also capitalized on the global downturn because of Covid-19 which hurt its competitors more than it did China Southern. While other major airlines worldwide have drastically reduced their operating capacity, China Southern almost managed to return to its pre-COVID levels. When the pandemic’s impact on aviation lessened China Southern lost its No. 1 spot. [Source: Luke Bodell, Simple Flying, October 26, 2020]

China Southern Airlines is headquartered at Guangzhou, Guangdong. It currently operates a fleet of 620 aircraft, including 163 Boeing 737s and 106 Airbus A320s. A) Main Hubs: 1) Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport and 2) Beijing Capital International Airport. B) Other important hubs: 1) Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport; 2) Shengzhen Baoan International Airport; 3) Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport; 4) Shenyang Taoxian International Airport; 5) Wuhan Tianhe International Airport; 6) Changsha Huanghua International Airport; 7) Guilin liangjiang International Airport; 8) Nanning Wuxu International Airport [Source: Top China Travel]

China Southern Airlines Business

China Southern purchased China Southern Airlines Northern and Xinjiang Airlines in November 2004 for $230 million. This increased its fleet size from 139 planes to 214. In September 2007, it ordered 25 Boeing 737s and 20 Airbus A320 for $3.7 billion. China Southern made a 28 million yuan profit in the first three quarters of 2008 but lost 810 million yuan in the July to September quarter due to high fuel costs and declining passenger numbers. Its debt to equity ratio reached 80 percent.

China Southern The company owns and operates China Southern Cargo, a cargo airline that provides services between Europe, North America, and China. China Southern entered a frequent flyer partnership with American Airlines in 2019. In October 2012, China Southern Airlines received China's first Airbus A380 (the really big Airbus plane) and became the first in China and seventh in the world to operate the Airbus A380. In 2014, China Southern Airlines agreed to buy 80 single-aisle A320s with a list value of $7.9 billion from Airbus. [Source: AFP, June 14, 2014; Chris Kolmar, Zippia, June 4, 2022]

China Southern Airlines lost US$212 million in 2021 and an US$1.8 billion in 2020 due to Covid-19. It was scheduled to receive deliveries of the Boeing 737 series aircraft from 2022, as Chinese carriers are set to resume commercial services of the 737 MAX, which was grounded in China for over two and a half years. [Source: Reuters, March 31, 2022]

In 2017, American Airlines agreed to pay $200 million for a 2,76 percent stake in China Southern Airlines, as part of its effort to claim a bigger piece of China’s growing travel market.Associated Press reported: “American and China Southern will expand commercial cooperation, possibly in sales, airport facilities and code-sharing, the Chinese airline.“The partnership with American Airlines "is expected to provide continuous impetus for the company's long-term growth," said China Southern's announcement. [Source: Joe McDonald, Associated Press, March 28, 2017]

In July 2022, China Southern Airlines said it would buy 96 A320neo-family jets worth $12.2 billion at list prices (usually there is a substantial discount for large orders). China Southern said the purchase would represent a 13 percent increase. Deliveries are expected to be from 2023 to 2027, with the bulk expected from 2024.[Source: CNBC, July 1 2022]

China Eastern Airlines

China Eastern Airlines is the second-largest airline in China in terms of scheduled passengers carried, serving over 500,000 customers each day. Based in Shanghai and the dominant carrier there, it too was founded in 1988 after the Chinese government decentralized and restructured the state-owned CAAC . China Eastern Airlines owns and operates Shanghai Airlines, another major Chinese airline that it merged within 2009. It revenues were $19.54 billion and its net income were $462 million in 2019 . It has market cap of $10.67 billion. Website:

China Eastern Airlines operates a fleet of 577 planes, up from 430 in 2014, composed mostly of Airbus and Boeing planes. The primary plane of the company’s mainline fleet is the Airbus A320-200, which it uses primarily for domestic flights. Internationally, the airline’s main traffic routes are between Asia, North America, and Australia. In the 2000s, China Eastern struggled to compete against international rivals on long-haul routes because of less-competitive in-flight amenities. In 2011 year it decided to shift its focus to regional and domestic services.[Source: Chris Kolmar, Zippia, June 4, 2022; Dow Jones Newswires, November 23, 2012]

China Eastern Airlines is headquartered at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, Shanghai, China A) Its Main Hubs: 1) Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport; 2) Shanghai Pudong International Airport; 3) Kunming Changshui International Airport; 4) Shunan Shuofang International Airport; 5) Xian Xianyang International Airport; and 6) Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport. B) Other important hubs: 1) Beijing Capital International Airport; 2) Hefei Luogang International Airport; 3) Nanjing Lukou International Airport; 4) Ningbo Lishe International Airport; 5) Qingdao Liuting International Airport; 6) Shijiazhuang Daguocun International Airport; 7) Taiyuan Wusu Airport; 8) Wuhan Tianhe International Airport; 9) Wuxi Shuofang Airport [Source: Top China Travel]

China Eastern Airlines Business

In 2015, Delta Airlines paid $450 million for 3.55 percent of China Eastern Airlines. China Eastern Airlines was poorly run and was badly in debt in 2007. In January 2008, a plan for Singapore Airlines and Temasek, the Singapore-owned investment company, to purchase a 24 percent stake of the airlines for $930 million was voted down by company shareholders. Instead China Eastern considered a $1.9 million offer from Air China for a 30 percent stake. China Eastern ended up rejecting Air China’s bid too. At that time China Eastern was still looking for investors.

China Eastern Airlines lost $2.2 billion in 2008 due to high fuel costs and declining passenger numbers. Its debt to equity ratio reached 90 percent. In November 2008, it was reported that parent companies of China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines would each receive loans of $440 million from the government to help them get through rough times caused by high fuel prices and declining business as a result of the global economic crisis. In 2009, China Eastern spent $1.3 billion to merge with Shanghai Air making Shanghai Airlines its subsidiary. In June 2009, China Eastern announced that was going to buy 20 Airbus320 jets for $1.45 billion

In 2014, China Eastern Airlines agreed to buy 80 737 aircraft from Boeing. According to AFP “The deal, a mix of current 737s and the new 737 MAX model, is worth more than $8 billion deal at list prices, Boeing said. The airplanes are expected to be delivered in stages from 2016 to 2020. As part of the agreement, China Eastern said it would dispose of 20 ageing Boeing aircraft — 15 737-300s and five 757s — to Boeing for an unspecified amount of cash; In 2012, China Eastern Airlines agreed to buy 60 A320 Airbus planes delivered from 2014 to 2017. The total list price for the planes was $5.39 billion. Airlines usually receive discounts for large orders.[Source: Dow Jones Newswires, November 23, 2012; AFP, June 14, 2014]

China Eastern Airlines lost US$1.8 billion in 2021 and US$1.75 billion in 2020 due to Covid-19. The airline has also faced closer regulatory scrutiny and negative pushback following the crash of a Boeing 737-800 in March 2022, killing all 132 people on board (See Air Crashes), which has led it to ground 223 planes of that type as a precaution while the investigation proceeds. [Source: Reuters, March 31, 2022]

In July 2022, China Eastern Airlines said it would buy 100 A320neo-family jets, worth $12.8 billion at list prices (usually there is a substantial discount for large orders). China Eastern said the new narrow body jets would be mostly deployed on domestic routes and on flights to neighboring countries. Deliveries are expected to be from 2023 to 2027, with the bulk expected from 2024.[Source: CNBC, July 1 2022]

Air China

Air China is the flag carrier of China and the third-largest airline in terms of scheduled passengers carried. Based in Beijing and formally known as CAAC, it has traditionally been China’s largest international carrier and should not be confused with China Airlines, the state-owned flag carrier of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Air China was formed in 1988 after CAAC Airlines restructured and split into six regional airlines, which later consolidated into China's Big Three airlines. Air China’s revenues were $19.4 billion and its net income were $2.06 billion in 2019 . Air China lost US$2.5 billion in 2021 due to Covid-19. Website: www.

Air China had long been the butt of aviation jokes about surly flight attendants, uncomfortable seats, horrible food and scary landings. Air China stocks are sold at both the Hong Kong stock exchange and the London stock exchange. It has offered large share offerings to generate capital to buy planes to keep up with demand for air travel. Air China was the fourth-largest airline in China until it merged with China Southwest Airlines in 2002, and then it became the third largest. During the same merger, Air China also acquired China National Aviation Holdings and the company’s various subsidiaries.

As of early 2021, Air China owned 444 aircraft, including 100 Boeing 737-800s. In 2019, the company flew over 130 million international and domestic passengers. It operates on six continents and employs over 70,000 workers. The airline’s busiest route networks are between Asia, Western Europe, and North America. Air China codeshares with other large airlines such as Air Canada, Austrian Airlines, and Air India. [Source: Chris Kolmar, Zippia, June 4, 2022]

Air China has a code share-holding arrangement with Cathay Pacific and is a member of the Star Alliance. United Airlines has a partnership with Air China. Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airlines owns 18 percent of Air China. n August 2009, Air China increased its stake in Cathay Pacific to 29.99 percent, just a smidgen below the 30 percent that would trigger a mandatory takeover offer. In September 2007, Air China made a deal to buy 23 Airbus A320 aircraft. The planes were scheduled to be delivered in January 2009 and December 2012 and had a list price of $1.4 billion. As of 2002 Air China operated 43 international and 71 domestic routes.

The year 2008 was supposed it be a good year for Air China. It joined the Star Alliance and was the official carrier of the Olympics. But things didn’t turn out as planned. Air China lost 657 million yuan in the first three quarters of 2008 due to high fuel costs, bad weather in the peak travel seasons and declining passenger numbers. It lost $284 million alone in the third quarter of 2008 when the Olympics took place. Air China’s profits ($422 million) in the first half of 2009 were double what they were in 2008.

Air China is headquarters at Beijing Tianzhu Airport Industrial Zone, Shunyi District, Beijing A) It main hubs are 1) Beijing Capital International Airport and 2) Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport. B) Other important hubs are: 1) Shanghai Pudong International Airport; 2) Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport; 3) Hohhot Baita International Airport; 4) Tianjin Binhai International Airport; 5) Wuhan Tianhe International Airport; and 6) Chongqi Jiangbei International Airport; [Source: Top China Travel]

In 2013, Air China bought 31 aircrafts from Boeing Company, including two Boeing 747-8I aircrafts, one Boeing 777-300ER aircraft and 20 Boeing 737-800 aircrafts at a cost about of about $2.6 billion. Delivery took place in stages between 2014 and 2015. Air China Cargo purchased eight Boeing 777-F aircrafts for about $2.23 billion. [Source: Reuters, March 1, 2013]

In July 2022, Air China said it would buy 96 A320neo-family jets worth $12.2 billion at list prices (usually there is a substantial discount for large orders). Air China said its purchase would represent a 10.4 percent increase. Deliveries are expected to be from 2023 to 2027, with the bulk expected from 2024.[Source: CNBC, July 1 2022]

Second Tier Airlines in China

There are nine major China’s airlines which are state airways directly supervised by the CAAC. Among them Air China, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines are the four largest ones. In the mid-1980s regional airlines began operations under the general aegis of CAAC. Wuhan Airlines, run by the Wuhan municipal authorities, started scheduled passenger flights to Hubei, Hunan, Guangdong, and Sichuan provinces in May 1986. Tibet also planned to set up its own airline to fly to Kathmandu and Hong Kong. [Sources: Library of Congress, 1987, Top China Travel]

Hainan Airlines is the largest privately air transport company and the 4th largest airline in terms of size in China. The airline operates domestic and international flights on 500 routes. Established in October 1989 and formerly known as Hainan Province Airlines and headquartered in Haikou, on Hainan island , it’s a) main hubs are 1) Haikou Meilan Airport; 2) Beijing Capital International Airport; and 3) Hefei Luogang International Airport. B) Other important hubs are: 1) Xian Xianyang International Airport; 2) Tiayuan Wusu International Airport; 3) Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport; 4) Shenzhen Baoan International Airport; 5) Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport; and 6) Lanzhou Zhongchuan Airport. Website:

Shandong Airlines was established in March 1994 and is Headquartered in Jinan, Shandong Province. It’s a) main hubs are: 1) Jinan Yaoqian International Airport and 2) Qingdao Liuting International Airport. B) Other important hubs: 1) Beijing Capital International Airport; 2) Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport; 3) Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport; 4) Yantai Laishan International Airport. In 2014, Shandong Airlines aimed to nearly double its total stock of planes to increase its fleet to more than 140 by the end of 2020. In 2014, the airline agreed to buy 50 737 passenger planes worth $4.6 billion from Boeing. The order included the purchase of 16 Boeing 737-800s and 34 Boeing 737MAX models, received the aircraft in batches between 2016 and 2020. At that time the airline operated 67 Boeing 737 planes. Website:

Shanghai Airlines is owned by China Eastern Airlines, but its operates independently and has kept its name. Headquartered in Jingan District, Shanghai, Shanghai Airlines was established in 1985 as a privately-owned low-cost carrier. It joined with low-cost carrier AirAsia to offer destinations in Southeast Asia, using Xiamen in southern China as a hub. In 2006, Shanghai Airlines announced it would join the Star Alliance. It Main Hubs are: 1) Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport. Website:

Shenzhen Airlines is the fourth largest domestic carrier in China after China Southern, China Eastern and Air China. A subsidiary of Air China, and headquartered in Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, near Hong Kong, Shenzhen Airlines was established in 1992 and began operations in September 1993. It has a fleet of more than 150 planes including Boeing 747s and 737s, as well as Airbus 320s and 319s. In 2015, it agreed to buy 46 Boeing 737 planes, in a deal valued at $4.3 billion with the delivery of the planes from 2016 to 2020. Air China, owns a controlling stake in Shenzhen Airlines. A) Its Main Hub is Shenzhen Baoan International Airport. B) Other important hubs are: 1) Nanning Wuxu International Airport; 2) Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport; 3) Wuxi Shuofang International Airport; 4) Zhengzhou Xinzheng International Airport; 5) Beijing Capital International Airport; 6) Jinan Yaoqiang International Airport; and 7) Nanjing Lukou International Airport. Website: www.

Sichuan Airlines was established in September 1986 and began in July 1988. In August 2002 it was reorganized and became the Sichuan Airlines group. The Sichuan provincial government has a large stake in the airlines. Headquartered in Chengdu, Sichuan province, it main hubs are Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport and Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport. Website:

Xiamen Airlines is the first privately owned airline in China. Headquartered in Xiamen in Fujian Province, it was founded in July, 1984 in Xiamen. At least for a while the largest shareholder in Hainan Airlines was U.S. financier George Soros In the 2000s, Xiamen Airlines conducted on board auctions for airline merchandise and seats on future flights. It’s a) Main Hubs are: 1) Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport; 2) Fuzhou Changle International Airport; 3) Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport. B) Other important hubs are: 1) Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport; 2) Tianjin Binhai International Airport; 3) Nanchang Changbei International Airport; 4) Changsha Huanghua International Airport; 5) Quanzhou Jinjiang International Airport; and 6) Wuyishan Airport

Foreign Airlines in China

U.S. airlines have fought aggressively among themselves for the rights to Chinese air routes. Much of the lobbying is directed at the U.S. Congress who decides who gets what routes. In May 2008, United and U.S. Airways asked for a one year delay in launching their coveted new routes to China, citing high fuel costs.

In July 2005, Federal Express announced it was shifting it Asia-Pacific hub from Subic Bay, Philippines to Baiyun International Airport outside Guangzhou in southern China. The company plans to spend $150 million for a facility with 82,000 square meters on 63 hectares and is expected to be operational in 2008.

In 2006, a low cost airlines, Spring, sold 400 tickets on a new route from Shanghai to the northern city of Jinan for one yuan the equivalent of 13 cents a piece. The usual price on the route is 760 yuan. Not only did the airlines lose money on the promotion is was fined $20,000 by the Chinese government for violating pricing rules.

Service on Chinese Airlines

In the old days CAAC stewardesses did revolutionary dances in the aisles and passengers carried their luggage across the tarmac tp the plane. In-flight meal often were a package of cookies. In the event of an accident, families of passengers who were killed were awarded only $4,300 and the deceased was given a full refund on his ticket.

In 1995, China's Civil Aviation Authority announced it was going to set new rules to improve the safety standards and service of China's air lines. Among the new rules were ones that said that airlines would have provide accommodation for passengers of delayed flights.

These days, long delays, mob-scene lines, and strained tempers are all hallmarks of air travel in China. One study in 2004 found that two of every three flights within China doesn’t take off on time. Delays are especially common on crowded routes such as the one between Beijing and Shanghai. The airlines are usually not at fault — delays are usually caused by bad weather and travel management — but that doesn’t make passengers feel any better. In recent years Chinese passengers fed up with mysterious delays, rude airline employees and poor service and fought back by refusing to leave the aircraft until they were given a refund.

China is plagued by a shortage of pilots, a lack of airports and inadequate air-traffic control systems. In June 2003, there were six mishaps in a month involving domestic flights on four carriers: Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, and Hainan Airlines. The problems involved landing difficulties and mechanical failure. In one case a plane careened off a runway during landing. In another a plane made an emergency landing after experiencing severe shaking during the take off and almost left the runway when it landed.

Passenger etiquette often leaves much to be desired. Passengers often have to be told directly to buckle up their seat belts and often stand up at the end the flight before the plane has come to a complete stop. Sometimes there are too many carry on bags to fit in the overhead compartments so bags are stuffed into the rear bathrooms.

Sometimes the passengers can be quite rowdy, drinking heavily and sometimes singing at the top their lungs, laughing when they are told to pipe down. Passengers that get upset because of delays demand this and that and take out their frustrations on the flight attendants, who are sometimes reduced to tears. There have been reports of passengers who have never flown before trying to open the emergency doors in mid flight.

Pilots in China

The booming air travel industry is creating a shortage of pilots. China-based airlines need 55,000 new pilots in the next 20 years with an expected a short fall of 8,000 pilots over the next 10 years. The Chinese are currently recruiting pilots from Europe.

Pilots are paid between $2,466 and $6,000 a month in China, compared to $8,000 a month in India and $8,000 to $18,000 a month in Britain.

There have been reports of pilots refusing to land. According to the Beijing News pilots on 18 China Eastern Airlines routes refused to land because of bad weather and returned to their point of departure during regional flights in southern Yunnan Province.

China is facing a pilot shortage. It needs over 2,000 pilots a years just to keep up with anticipated growth. Among the places it is seeking new pilots is Brazil.

After the Henan Airlines plane crash in August that killed 42 people in northeast China,officials discovered that 100 pilots who worked for the airline’s parent company had falsified their flying histories.

Flight Attendants in China

Flight attendants on Chinese airlines are expected to be young, pretty and the same height. Few girls are still flying in their 30s. The mandatory retirement age is 45. The height requirement is very strict: between 5 foot 4 and 5 foot 7. If you don’t fit that criteria you can’t be a flight attendant. There are a number flight academy schools in China that offer classes in etiquette, psychology, English and world geography.

China Southern Airlines has gone as far as setting up a televised beauty pageant — complete with a swimsuit competition and race involving luggage, make up brushes and drink trays — to recruit young women for flight attendant positions.

A mother of one contestant told the Los Angeles Times, “I think this kind of contest is fair. This is a service industry. A lot of other airlines have flight attendants who are very attractive. People always talk about which airlines has the best-looking flight attendants.”

These days flight attendant on Chinese airlines get paid about $1,000 a month, a very high salary in China, but they have to work their butts off — often from dawn until late in the night on five or six flight a day — and are on the front lines dealing with angry passengers when flights are delayed and other things go wrong.

A 21-year-old flight attendant from Shanghai told the New York Times, “When I was very small, this was kind of a dream job; a beautiful woman’s profession, a life for a gentle person. But one dreams these things less and less. Daily life is full of difficulties and stress, and there’s no time to relax, really. Last year, I had juts seven days off.”

Image Sources: 1) Nolls China website

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated July 2022

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