MIAMI – Chinese aircraft manufacturer COMAC announced earlier today that China’s three biggest airlines have received their first deliveries of the ARJ21.

With this news, Air China (CA), China Eastern Airlines (MU), and China Southern Airlines (CZ) have become the latest operators of the short-haul jet; they have orders for 34 more, bringing their eventual fleets of the type to 105.

With development for the aircraft beginning in Q1 2002, the jet has been significantly behind schedule with delays amounting to eight years. With the first flight in Q4 2008 and an introduction with Chengdu Airlines (EU) in Q2 2016, the aircraft is slowly having an impact on the market.

ARJ-21-700 at the Zhuhai Airshow (2010)

Success despite delays

Despite the hurdles in development, the jet is proving to be a massive success, albeit mainly in China.

On June 10, China Express Airlines (CEA) entered a strategic partnership agreement with COMAC. The partnership includes CEA buying a large number of ARJ21.

The aircraft competes directly with and is listed for a US$1m less than the CRJ-900. The aircraft is currently 15 shy of 500 orders and will likely dominate the Chinese short-haul market for many decades to come.

Today’s deliveries mark the beginning of what should be a long relationship between COMAC and China’s ‘Big Three.’