China Eastern subsidiary outlines launch network

China Eastern’s new subsidiary OTT Airlines is planning to launch at least five routes during the first quarter of 2021 as it seeks to gain a foothold in China’s domestic market.

The regional carrier operated its maiden service on Dec. 28, carrying passengers between Shanghai Hongqiao International (SHA) and Beijing Capital (PEK). The airline said the inaugural flight’s load factor was more than 90%.

Over the next three months, OTT intends to expand its network to include four more routes, each of which will originate at Shanghai Pudong (PVG). Flights will connect PVG with Beijing Daxing (PKX), Hefei (HFE), Nanchang (KHN) and Wenzhou (WNZ).

OTT—which stands for One, Two, Three—took delivery of its first aircraft in June 2020, an ARJ21-700 made by state-owned COMAC. The carrier previously operated a series of business jets under its previous brand, China Eastern Business Jet Co.

Plans to launch the carrier were first unveiled in February 2020, with China Eastern outlining that the subsidiary would have a fleet of 35 aircraft by 2025. OTT currently has three ARJ21-700s in its fleet, with six more due to be received in 2021, eight in 2022 and nine each in 2023 and 2024.

In a statement, China Eastern said the launch of OTT with Chinese-produced aircraft would help the civil aviation industry overcome the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, injecting “confidence and strength.”

China was the largest aviation market in the world in 2020, overtaking the US thanks to the strong recovery of its domestic market.

According to analysis of data provided by OAG Schedules Analyser, there are 14.8 million departure seats being offered by airlines from China this week (w/c Jan. 4)—almost 14.7 million of which are domestic. This compares with 14.58 million domestic seats during the same week a year ago.

International capacity remains low amid strict travel restrictions in and out the country. There are just 154,000 international departure seats from China this week, down from almost 2.1 million a year ago.

The latest figures released by Civil Aviation Administration of China show that Chinese airlines carried 50.3 million passengers during October 2020, a year-on-year decrease of 11.7%. A total of 50.1 million passengers flew on domestic routes—a decrease of just 1.6% on October 2019.

Photo credit: COMAC

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.