Eastern Rebirth With Chinese Airliners?


A reborn Eastern Air Lines plans to be the first U.S. airline to fly Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC)’s C919. In a surprise announcement at the China Airshow in Zhuhai Tuesday, Jack Shi, senior vice president for commercial development of Eastern Air Lines, told a news conference that revival of the aviation icon has been in the works since 2008 and the fledgling airline is now shopping for aircraft. Eastern went bankrupt in 1991 and Shi said some of those trying to resurrect it are former employees. It’s planning to start flying from Miami to Latin America next year but Shi told Reuters there’s a lot to do yet. “Eastern used to be the largest U.S. airline to serve the Latin America market,” he said. “A lot of preparation work needs to be done, such as applying for an air route.”

Shi said being the U.S. launch customer for the 150-seat C919 would be fitting for Eastern since it introduced Airbus airliners to the U.S., but admitted they’re not in a position to order aircraft. “We are still a young company. The startup investment has not been finalized yet,” he said. COMAC declined comment on the Eastern rebirth. Meanwhile, COMAC says it has sold another 50 C919s, pushing the order book to 380 and reportedly into the break-even range.