Air China
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded1 July 1988; 35 years ago (1988-07-01)
Secondary hubs
Focus cities
Frequent-flyer programPhoenixMiles
AllianceStar Alliance
Fleet size491
Parent companyAir China Group (53.46%) Cathay Pacific Airways Limited (18.13%)
Traded as
HeadquartersBeijing Tianzhu Airport Industrial Zone, Shunyi District, Beijing, China
Key people
Employees50,000 (April 2016)
Air China Limited
Simplified Chinese中国国际航空股份公司
Traditional Chinese中國國際航空股份公司
Literal meaningChina International Airlines, Company Limited by Shares
Alternative Chinese name
Simplified Chinese中国国际航空公司
Traditional Chinese中國國際航空公司
Literal meaningChina International Airlines Company
Air China
Simplified Chinese国航
Traditional Chinese國航
Literal meaningNational Airline

Air China Limited (Chinese: 中国国际航空公司) is the flag carrier of the People's Republic of China[2] and one of the "Big Three" mainland Chinese airlines (alongside China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines). Air China's headquarters are in Shunyi District, Beijing. Air China's flight operations are based primarily at Beijing Capital International Airport. In 2017, the airline carried 102 million domestic and international passengers with an average load factor of 81%.[3] The airline joined Star Alliance in 2007.


Early years

Air China Boeing 747SP at Zürich Airport in 1992

Air China was established and commenced operations on 1 July 1988 as a result of the Chinese government's decision in late 1987 to split the operating divisions of Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC Airlines) into six separate airlines: Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, China Northern, China Southwest, and China Northwest.[4] Air China was given chief responsibility for intercontinental flights and took over the CAAC's long haul aircraft (Boeing 747s, 767s, and 707s) and routes.

In January 2001, the former CAAC's ten airlines agreed on a merger plan,[5] according to which Air China was to acquire China Southwest Airlines. Before this acquisition, Air China was the country's fourth largest domestic airline. The merger created a group with assets of 56 billion Yuan (US$8.63 billion), and a fleet of 118 aircraft.[6] In October 2002, Air China consolidated with the China National Aviation Holding and China Southwest Airlines.[7]

On 15 December 2004, Air China was successfully listed on the Hong Kong and London Stock Exchanges. In 2006, Air China signed an agreement to join the Star Alliance. It became a member of the alliance on 12 December 2007 alongside Shanghai Airlines.

In July 2009, Air China acquired $19.3 millions of shares from its troubled subsidiary Air Macau, lifting its stake in the carrier from 51% to 80.9%.[8] One month later, Air China spent HK$6.3 billion (US$813 million) to raise its stake in Cathay Pacific from 17.5% to 30%, expanding its presence in Hong Kong.[9]

Development since 2010

In April 2010, Air China completed the increase of shareholdings in Shenzhen Airlines and became the controlling shareholder of Shenzhen Airlines, allowing Air China to further enhance its position in Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai as well as achieve a more balanced domestic network.[10]

On 2 December 2010, Air China received Spain's highest tourism industry award, the "Plaque for Tourist Merit." Air China was the first foreign airline to receive the award, which is given to organisations and individuals contributing to the Spanish tourism industry.[11]

On 23 December 2010, Air China became the first Chinese airline to offer combined tickets that include domestic flights and shuttle bus services to nearby cities. The first combined flight-shuttle bus ticket connected Tianjin via shuttle bus with domestic flights passing through Beijing.[12]

Air China began offering free Wi-Fi internet service on board its aircraft on 15 November 2011, making it the first Chinese carrier to offer this service.[13] However the service is not allowed on smartphones, only tablets and laptops.[14]

In 2012, after pressure from PETA, Air China stated that it would no longer transport monkeys to laboratories. PETA welcomed the airline's announcement.[15]

On July 3, 2013, in time for the company's 25th anniversary, Air China successfully tested Wireless LAN in flight. It was the first global satellite Internet flight in Mainland China.[16]

In early 2015 it was announced that the airline had selected the Boeing 737 Next Generation and 737 MAX for its fleet renewal programme of 60 aircraft. The deal, with a value of over $6 billion at current list prices, has yet to be finalised.[17]

Corporate affairs

Air China HQ Building

The entity Air China Limited was registered in 2003, and its shares began trading in Hong Kong and London on December 15, 2004. Originally the airline corporate entity was Air China International, which was founded 2002 Air China International incorporated China Southwest Airlines and the air transportation services of the China National Aviation Corporation, becoming a new entity.[18]

The Air China HQ Building (simplified Chinese: 国航总部大楼; traditional Chinese: 國航總部大樓; pinyin: Guó Háng Zǒngbù Dàlóu), the corporate headquarters, is located in Zone A of the Tianzhu Airport Industrial Zone (simplified Chinese: 天竺空港工业区; traditional Chinese: 天竺空港工業區; pinyin: Tiānzhú Kōng Gǎng Gōngyèqū) in Shunyi District, Beijing.[18][19][20] The company registered office is on the ninth floor of the Blue Sky Mansion (simplified Chinese: 蓝天大厦; traditional Chinese: 藍天大廈; pinyin: Lántiān Dàshà), also in Zone A of the Tianzhu Airport Industrial Zone.[21]

Forward section of an Air China Boeing 747-400, with the flag of China and the calligraphy text of "AIR CHINA", along with the Star Alliance logo.

The enterprise logo of Air China consists of an artistic Fenghuang pattern, the name of the airline written in calligraphy by former national leader Deng Xiaoping, and "AIR CHINA" in English. The phoenix logo is also the artistic transfiguration of the word "VIP". Air China is a member of the Star Alliance.

Air China is primarily based in its hub of Beijing Capital International Airport (IATA: PEK), where it operates numerous long-range aircraft on routes to North America, Europe, South America, Africa and Australia. Its fleet is made up of an assortment of Boeing and Airbus aircraft, including: Boeing 737s, 777s, 747s, 787s along with Airbus A319s, A320s, A321s and A330s. Air China also operates a second hub in Chengdu International Airport, where it primarily flies domestic routes, as well as Shanghai Pudong International Airport, where many international routes served.

History of Air China liveries
A Boeing 747-200 in the original CAAC livery after the split of CAAC Airlines.
A Boeing 767-200ER in the second generation livery with the introduction of the phoenix-styled livery. This aircraft would later crash as Flight 129.
A Boeing 777-300ER in the current livery used on Boeing aircraft, which the phoenix logo was enlarged and straightened.
An Airbus A350-900 in the current livery used on Airbus aircraft, the Chinese name has a smaller size than the livery used on Boeing aircraft.
An Airbus A330-300 in the current livery used on Taiwan routes. The PRC flag is removed due to Taiwan Issue.


Main article: List of Air China destinations

  Mainland China

Air China's route network extends throughout Asia to the Middle East, Western Europe, and North America from its hubs at Beijing Capital International Airport and Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport.[22] It also currently reaches a significant number of Asian, Australian and European destinations from Shanghai. Some international routes operate from Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Hangzhou, Kunming and Shenzhen. It is one of the few world airlines that fly to all six habitable continents.

On 10 December 2006, Air China began serving its first South American destination, São Paulo-Guarulhos (via Madrid-Barajas). This was the airline's longest direct flight.[23] The service was initiated with a Boeing 767-300ER, but due to increased demand, the service has been upgraded to an Airbus A330-200, and later a Boeing 787-9.

Regular flights between mainland China and Taiwan started in July 2009. Due to the political status of Taiwan, all Air China airframes that operate flights to and from Taiwan are required to cover the flag of the People's Republic of China on the fuselage.[citation needed]

Air China introduced its new Airbus A330-300 to long-haul operations beginning with services to Düsseldorf, Germany in summer 2011. These aircraft provided the same two-class cabin standard as the Airbus A330-200 except that the economy cabin had no seat-back entertainment system installed (with the exception of the first two economy rows which also had increased legroom). Düsseldorf is now the third German destination on the Air China network. The airline launched a new Beijing-Milan-Malpensa service on 15 June 2011, complementing the airline's existing service to Milan from Shanghai.

Deliveries of the carrier's 19 new Boeing 777-300ERs commenced in mid-2011, with the aircraft forming the new "backbone of its future longhaul operations." The new Boeing 777-300ERs replaced the Boeing 747-400s on routes to U.S. destinations such as Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco, but was expected to first enter service on flights to Paris from March 2012. The Boeing 777-300ER began to replace most 747 service once sufficient numbers entered the fleet.[24] Air China expanded its operations in India with a Beijing-Mumbai route begun in September 2011, while the existing Delhi route was upgraded to the A330.[25] The airline also launched service to Mumbai from Chengdu on 2 May 2012.[26] The airline began using the Boeing 777-300ER on one of its two daily Beijing-Los Angeles flights on 1 February 2012.[27] In the late-2012's to early 2013's, the airline replaced the Boeing 747-400s servicing the New York and San Francisco routes with the Boeing 777-300ER.[28] With the addition of the Boeing 777-300ERs on the US routes, Air China increased frequency on the Beijing-New York route, changing the flights from 7 to 11 flights a week by adding two new flights to the route (CA989/990).[29] On 21 January 2014, the airline launched its service to Hawaii with flights from Beijing to Honolulu, the first nonstop flights between the two cities.[30] The airline also increased the frequency of service on the Beijing-Houston Intercontinental route from four times weekly to daily service from 30 March 2014.[31] Beginning 10 June 2014, Air China introduced new nonstop service from Beijing to Washington-Dulles, operated by a Boeing 777-300ER.[32] As of September 29 2015, Air China also introduced a 3 times weekly flight to Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in a codeshare with Air Canada.[33] The Montreal flight was extended to Havana from 27 December 2015.

Air China started its direct flights to Johannesburg, South Africa from 29 October 2015.[34]

Codeshare agreements

Air China codeshares with the following airlines:[35]

Interline agreements

Air China has Interline agreements with the following airlines:[36]


Current fleet

As of May 2023, Air China operates the following aircraft:[37][38][39]

Air China passenger fleet
Aircraft In service Orders Passengers Notes
F B E+ E Total
Airbus A319-100 33 8 120 128
Airbus A319neo 13[40] TBA
Airbus A320-200 41 8 150 158
Airbus A320neo 49 12[41][40] 8 150 158 [42]
Airbus A321-200 61 16 161 177
12 173 185
Airbus A321neo 30 45[40] 12 182 194 [42]
Airbus A330-200 23 30 207 237
18 247 265
12 271 283
Airbus A330-300 28 30 16 255 301
36 20 311
Airbus A350-900 27 3[43] 32 24 256 312[44]
Boeing 737-700 18 8 120 128 B-3999 used for VIP transport.
Boeing 737-800 91 8 159 167
168 176
12 147 159
Boeing 737 MAX 8 16 22[45] 8 168 176
Boeing 747-400 2 10 42 292 344
Boeing 747-8I 7 12 54 66 233 365[46] B-2479 used for VIP transport.
Boeing 777-300ER 28 8 42 261 311
36 356 392[47]
Boeing 787-9 14 30 34 229 293[48]
Comac ARJ21-700 18 17[49] 90 90 Deliveries until 2024.
Comac C919 20 TBA
Air China Business Jets fleet
Boeing BBJ1 1 VIP Operated by Beijing Airlines.
Boeing BBJ2 3 VIP
Dassault Falcon 7X 1 VIP
Total 491 133

Former fleet

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Air China retired fleet
Aircraft Total Introduced Retired Notes
Airbus A340-300 6 1997 2014
Boeing 707-320 6 1988 1993
Boeing 737-200 4 1988 1995 Disposed to Air Great Wall
Boeing 737-300 44 1988 2014
Boeing 737-600 6 2003 2009
Boeing 747-200M 3 1988 2000 Converted into freighters and transferred to Air China Cargo
Boeing 747-400M 4 1989 2013
3 Converted into freighters and transferred to Air China Cargo
Boeing 747SP 4 1988 2000
Boeing 757-200 9 2003 2010 Converted into freighters and disposed to SF Airlines
4 Converted into freighters and transferred to Air China Cargo
Boeing 767-200ER 5 1988 2009
1 2002 Crashed as flight CA129.
Boeing 767-300 4 1993 2012
Boeing 767-300ER 5 2003 2012
Boeing 777-200 10 1998 2018 Three aircraft are stored
BAe 146-100 4 1988 2008
Gulfstream IV 1 Un­known Un­known Used for VIP flights
Hawker Siddeley Trident 3 1988 1991
Learjet 45 1 2004 2007 Used for VIP flights
Xian Y-7 3 1988 1996


Air China first class lounge at Beijing Capital International Airport

PhoenixMiles (Chinese: 凤凰知音; pinyin: feng huang zhī yīn, literally "Phoenix Partner"), is the frequent flyer program of Air China and its subsidiary Shenzhen Airlines, Shandong Airlines, Tibet Airlines and Dalian Airlines. This is the first frequent flyer program launched in mainland China. It was designed to reward frequent flyers traveling internationally and domestically with Air China and its partner airlines.[50]

Air China Cargo

Main article: Air China Cargo

Air China Cargo, is a subsidiary of Air China, that focuses on freight delivery and does not transport passengers. It operates routes across Asia, Europe and North America with its fleet of Boeing 747-400Fs, Boeing 757-200PCF and Boeing 777F.

Cabin services

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First Class

First Class on a Boeing 747-400

First class is offered on all Boeing 747-400, Boeing 747-8 and Boeing 777-300ER, and was offered on all Airbus A340-300 and all Boeing 747-400M. First Class on the 777-300ER and 747-8 is Air China's latest flagship product, with 1.98-metre-long (78 in) convertible beds, and featuring 23 inch AVODs at every seat. First Class on the 747-400 has 80-inch (203 cm) seat pitch, swiveling seat power, and fully flat bed recline. First Class on the 747-400 is one of two classes that sports AVOD screens. It is named Forbidden Pavilion due to its place in the cabin.

For retired aircraft, the First Class on the A340 also had a 180 recline but had a smaller screen. The First Class on the 747-400M was the same as the full passenger -400 variant but was instead located inside the nose on the main deck instead of between the number 1 and 2 doors seen on full passenger 747-400s. On Boeing 767-300s, First Class was laid out in a 2-1-2 configuration, with wider seats than business. These seats did not offer any individual inflight entertainment options. Boeing 767-200s and 767-300ERs did not offer First Class seats. On Boeing 777-200s prior to 2013 interior update, First Class had a 2-2-2 configuration, with personal screens without AVOD functionality.

In domestic flights, Business class on narrow-body jets are often referred to as First Class.

Business Class

Business class is offered on all Air China aircraft, and was offered on all of Air China's former aircraft. Business class comes in many different versions.

On Air China's narrow-body fleet, business class seats are recliners arranged in an 2-2 configuration.

Business class on an Air China Boeing 777-300ER. Similar seats are used on Air China's Boeing 787s.

On the Boeing 777-300ER and Boeing 787, Business Class would be located at the front of the cabin in a 2-2-2 configuration. The seats on some Boeing 777s were grey with full recline and IFE screens while Business Class on other Boeing 777s and all Boeing 787s were dark blue and cocoon shaped with seat-back IFE screens.

The Business Class on the Airbus A330 would be located in a small area at the front of the cabin. On newer A330s, Business Class would have light blue rectangle-like seats, with two reading lights located between seats in a 2-2-2 configuration and seat-back screens would be provided. These seats provide full recline. On older A330s, the screens would be smaller and there would be no storage space between screens, and a recline of 165 degrees.

The Airbus A350 feature Air China's latest product, released in August 2018 with the delivery of the first Airbus A350. The seats feature a reverse herringbone Collins Aerospace Super-Diamond seat arrangement at the front of the cabin in 8 1-2-1 configurated rows. The seats would be full flat reclinable, along with a shoulder belt for safety. There are no mid-overhead bins, allowing the cabin to look and feel bigger. There would also be aisle access to all seats, and 18-inch HD IFE screens.

Business Class on an Air China Boeing 747-400

On the Boeing 747s, Business Class is located in the nose of the aircraft and the Upper Deck, with a painted collage of the Summer Palace, which symbolizes good luck in China. The seats have partial recline, with a touch-screen function and remote function IFE screen on the back of seats and also located in the armrests. It was located in a 2-2-2 configuration at the back, with 2-2 rows continuing to the front and on the Upper Deck. These seats feature seat-back AVOD screens.

Historically, Business Class on the Airbus A340 would be very similar to what is offered on the Boeing 747-400, except that there is a 2-2-2 configuration with AVOD screens. Boeing 747-400M aircraft only had business class located on the upper deck while First class and Economy were on the main deck, with products similar to the Boeing 747-400. Boeing 767s and 777-200s featured armchair seats. On 767s they are arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration, whereas on 777s, they are arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration prior to 2013 interior update. Boeing 777-200s featured IFE screens whereas 767s did not. After the 2013 interior update, 777-200s featured a Business Product similar to Boeing 777-300ER and Boeing 787, but without IFE screens.

Premium Economy Class

Premium economy is offered on all of Air China's Airbus A330-300, Airbus A350-900, Boeing 747-8 and Boeing 787-9. The Premium Economy class on the A350-900 is the newest product, with extra recline and bigger seats in a 2-4-2 configuration. Premium Economy on A330-300s, 747-8s and 787-9s were seats with extra legroom than Economy. In older A330s, these seats also featured AVOD screens and headrests, which the Economy Class did not.

Economy Class

Economy class on an Air China Boeing 747-400

Economy class is offered on all Air China aircraft. IFE with AVOD functionality is available on Boeing 777-300ER, Boeing 787-9, Airbus A350-900, Boeing 747 and newer Airbus A330 aircraft with different screen sizes and different systems from Panasonic and Thales. Universal power port and USB availability is different upon aircraft.

Accidents and incidents


Air China's inflight magazine Wings of China faced accusations of racism when they stated "London is generally a safe place to travel, however precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people." in their September 2016 issue.[61][62] On 8 September 2016, Air China issued an apology.[63] Air China Media, which publishes the Wings of China magazine, said it wished to apologise to "readers and passengers who are feeling uncomfortable".[64] It added: "This inappropriate description... was purely a work mistake by the editors and it's not the magazine's views...We will immediately recall this entire issue of magazines and draw lessons from this incident."[65][66]

See also


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