LONDON — Ruili Airlines announced an order for six Boeing 787-9 Wednesday at the Farnborough Airshow, signaling major long haul growth ambitions for a small private airline in China’s Southwest. No delivery timeline has been set for the aircraft as of yet, and the order is a confirmation of Ruili’s announcement of the planned buy in May of this year at the carrier’s second anniversary.
The full-service carrier is based at Kunming Changshui International Airport, China’s 7th busiest airport and the primary hub and gateway for Southwest China. Ruili’s fleet currently consists of 9 Boeing 737 Next Generation (737NG) aircraft split as 6 Boeing 737-700s and 3 Boeing 737-800s. It has also placed a massive order for 60 737 MAX 8 airplanes, and with the new order is planning to grow its fleet to 70 airframes by 2025.
For us, seeing an all-Boeing operator is a great honor.” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner. “To be in on the ground floor of such a tremendous expansion is great. I’m extremely excited that the 787 will be operating with another airline in Asia and on China’s international routes.”
“With our base in Yunnan province, Ruili Airlines is positioned to help build Yunnan as the gateway between Southwest China and the rest of the world,” said Ma Zhanwei, Chairman, Ruili Airlines. “The right size, long range, competitive fuel efficiency, as well as passenger appealing edge of the 787-9 make it an ideal fit in facilitating our international expansion plans.”
Ruili currently operates roughly 46 daily departures to nine domestic destinations within China, including Beihai, Chengdu, Hohhot, Mangshi, Nanchang, Nanning, Taiyuan, Wenzhou, Xi’an. All destinations are served exclusively from its Kunming hub, where it faces fierce competition from hubs for Hainan Group subsidiary Lucky Air, Siuchan Airlines, China Southern & Shenzhen Airlines subsidiary Kunming Airlines, and Big 3 carrier China Eastern, for whom Kunming is the second largest hub in its network.
The order for the 787-9 is the latest signal of the ongoing bonanza for long haul routes from Tier 2 Chinese cities (excluding the traditional hubs of Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Beijing). Donghai Airlines also bought 5 787-9s to build long haul operations at Shenzhen, and on the whole, there is a massive surge in long distance routes, powered by massive subsidies from local and provincial Chinese governments.