China's top airlines to buy ARJ21 jets from COMAC

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s three biggest state-owned airlines on Friday announced deals to each purchase 35 ARJ21-700 regional jets from state planemaker Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC).

Air China 601111.SS0753.HK, China Southern Airlines Co Ltd 600029.SS1055.HK and China Eastern Airlines 600115.SS said in separate stock filings that the order is worth $1.33 billion each, based on list prices.

Deliveries were scheduled from 2020 through 2024.

The almost identical announcements from the major airlines may signal an acceleration in the developments of the jet as Beijing seeks to promote its first domestically manufactured jet despite a slow start to sales and production hiccups.

The carriers said the aircraft purchases were aimed at boosting capacity in their regional markets.

China Eastern this month rebranded its Eastern Jets business which operates in general aviation as Air 123 to include public transportation services.

Chinese media have reported that the business was designed to operate home-grown jets such as ARJ21 and C919.

The C919, China’s bid to break the Airbus and Boeing duopoly in the narrow-body passenger jet market, has not yet obtained an airworthiness certification and is not yet in service.

Until now, only small Chinese airlines such as Chengdu Airlines and Inner Mongolia based Genghis Khan Airlines operate the ARJ21, a twin-engine regional jet.

Reporting by Stella Qiu and Brenda Goh; editing by Uttaresh.V and Jason Neely