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BEIJING, CHINA - Three biggest state-owned Chinese airlines received their first ARJ21 aircraft, a 90-seater regional jet produced by state-run aircraft manufacturer COMAC.

Three major Chinese airlines received their first ARJ21 planes on Sunday in Shanghai, marking the acceptance of the Chinese jet by mainstream international airlines.

It is the first time that the three airlines, namely Air China, China Eastern, and China Southern Airlines, have received ARJ21 jets. According to a statement sent to Global Times, each airline received one jet on Sunday, with each expecting to accept three in total by the end of this year. 

The ARJ21 jet is a 78–90 seat regional aircraft manufactured by the Chinese state-owned aerospace company Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC). It was first developed back in 2002. 

The three models delivered to Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines all adopt the 90-seat all-economy class configuration, the statement said.

The three airlines had been preparing extensively before accepting the ARJ21 into their fleet. Air China set up an ARJ group in December last year to prepare for personnel training and logistic support.

China Eastern opened a new base at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport on February 26, which operates mainly domestic commercial jets such as ARJ21 and C919.

China Southern Airlines plans to operate the jet in Guangzhou in South China’s Guangdong Province where it will accumulate comprehensive operating experience in providing an accessible and comfortable flying experience to customers.

The three airlines all have large fleets, as well as extensive route coverage and operating experience. The ARJ21 aircraft is expected to have a positive role in promoting the operation of regional aircraft, exploring regional routes, and building a more accessible air transportation network in China.

The ARJ21 entered commercial operations four years ago and is China's first domestically manufactured airliner.

COMAC has two other passenger jet programs in development - the C919 narrowbody aircraft program which is currently undergoing flight testing, and the CR929 widebody program in collaboration with Russia.

China Eastern Airlines earlier this year launched a subsidiary - OTT Airlines - to operate ARJ21 and C919 airliners. It is slated to be the first customer for the C919, once the 160-seater plane receives airworthiness certification from the Chinese aviation regulator.

The C919 is a much more high-profile program, that will place COMAC in direct competition with Airbus and Boeing in the single-aisle market. The United States earlier this year considered whether or not to block the sales of LEAP-1C engines to the program, but it later relented. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on international travel has decimated the order books of both Airbus and Boeing.
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