China Eastern Airlines Co., Ltd. and Airbus have signed a contract for the purchase of 20 A330-300 aircraft for fleet replacement and expansion, becoming the first customer of the type in the Chinese mainland. The aircraft, to be deployed on both regional and domestic trunk routes, will increase the airline’s competitiveness in both international and domestic markets.

“As one of the three major airline groups in the country, China Eastern has maintained sound momentum of development. Purchase of the 20 A330-300s will satisfy the needs of strategic development of China and accommodate growing aviation market demand,” said Luo Chaogeng, President of China Eastern Airlines Co., Ltd. “Introduction of the aircraft will enlarge our fleet and give a boost to our growth.”

“We are delighted that China Eastern Airlines, our first and largest customer in China, has chosen our aircraft again to meet the ever growing traffic demands,” said Airbus President and CEO Noel Forgeard. “This agreement marks a new milestone in the long standing cooperation between our two companies.”

The twin-engine A330 combines some of the lowest operating costs of any aircraft ever designed with maximum flexibility for a wide range of route structures. The A330-300, which first entered service in early 1994, typically seats 335 passengers in two classes or 295 passengers in three classes and can fly up to 5,650 nm/10,500 km.

The A330s will give China Eastern the full benefit of Airbus’ unique operational commonality, which enables operation of A330s and A340s using the same pool of pilots, cabin crews and maintenance engineers. This gives airlines more crew and fleet planning flexibility and will result in significant cost savings in training, combined with unmatched passenger comfort.

China Eastern‘s selection of the A330 further reinforces the remarkable success of Airbus’ A330/A340 Family as the preferred medium to ultra long-range aircraft among airlines worldwide. The A330/A340 Family has booked more than 830 orders from over 60 customers to date.

Based in Shanghai, China Eastern Airlines has air links to more than 40 domestic destinations and over 20 cities abroad. The airline operates a fleet of nearly 170 aircraft, around 90 of which are Airbus aircraft.

Airbus’s business in China has been steadily expanding since it first entered the country in 1985. The Airbus fleet in service in the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macao has grown to more than 250 today from just 29 in 1995. A world-class training and support centre, which represents a US$80 million investment by Airbus, is fully operational in Beijing. Five Chinese companies are already involved in producing parts for Airbus aircraft.

Airbus is an EADS joint Company with BAE Systems.