China Express Air to buy 100 of COMAC's Chinese made planes

FILE PHOTO: The Comac C919, China's first large passenger jet, lands on its maiden flight at Shanghai's Pudong airport on May 5, 2017. REUTERS/Greg Baker/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) - China Express Airlines 002928.SZ said on Wednesday it had signed a strategic partnership agreement with the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) to buy a total of 100 ARJ21 and C919 passenger aircraft for delivery from 2020.

The Guizhou-based regional airline did not provide details of the number of each model it wanted to buy, but said the two sides needed to hammer out the contractual details later on, a corporate filing to the Shenzhen stock exchange showed.

The planned purchases of the domestically-developed aircraft are a boost to state planemaker COMAC at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is devastating global travel demand, prompting many airlines to cancel or defer aircraft orders with top manufacturers Airbus AIR.PA and Boeing BA.N.

China Express and COMAC will also deepen cooperation on aircraft design and optimization, maintenance and services, and overseas market expansion, especially in countries that have signed up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative and African markets, the carrier said.

By the end of May, COMAC had delivered 25 ARJ21-700 regional jets, according to state media reports. The country’s three biggest state-owned airlines last year announced deals to each purchase 35 ARJ21 jets.

The C919, China’s bid to break the Airbus and Boeing duopoly in the narrow-body passenger jet market, is still in flight-testing phase after years of delay. It is expected to receive Chinese airworthiness certification next year.

Reporting by Stella Qiu in Beijing and Jamie Freed in Sydney; Editing by Mark Potter