Air China is the flag carrier airline of the People’s Republic of China, transporting roughly 51 million passengers around the globe every year. Formally, the airline is named Air China Limited, and it is headquartered in the Shunyi district of the country’s capital city of Beijing. Travelers headed to China often choose this airline as a reliable and luxurious way to travel throughout the country and beyond.
Air China was founded in 1988 as a result of a governmental decision to divide the Civil Aviation Administration of China into six individual airlines. The resulting airlines were China Northern, China Southern, China Eastern, China Northwest, China Southwest and Air China. At this time, Air China was responsible for intercontinental flights to and from the country.
China Airlines quickly became the country’s fourth largest domestic airline, but it wasn’t until 2001 that Air China acquired China Southwest Airlines. A year later, they consolidated with China Southwest Airlines and the China National Aviation Corporation. The group now had a fleet of more than 118 aircraft.
Air China joined the London and Hong Kong stock exchanges on Dec. 15, 2004, which solidified its place as one of the country’s leading airlines. Shares were listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange just two years later. The company joined the Star Alliance — the world’s largest airline alliance — on Dec. 12, 2007.
Air China has grown leaps and bounds since its inception in 1988. In 2009, the airline acquired nearly $20 million worth of shares from Air Macau and raised its stake in Cathay Pacific to 30 percent. Air China purchased shares in Shenzhen Airlines in 2010 and became that airline’s controlling shareholder. The company was quickly becoming a dominant force throughout China.
Air China set new standards for Chinese airlines when they won the Plaque for Tourist Merit on Dec. 2, 2010. The award serves as the highest tourism industry award in Spain. It was the first foreign airline to be honored with the award.
The airline was quickly proving how successful a company could become in such a short amount of time, and travelers began to turn to them for their reliable service and increasingly impressive amenities. Air China began offering Wi-Fi internet service on board its aircraft on 15 November 2011, making it the first Chinese carrier to offer this service.
The airline began using the Boeing 777-300ER on one of its two daily Beijing-Los Angeles flights on 1 February 2012. And in late 2012 and early 2013, the company began to replace the 747-400s used on its San Francisco and New York routes to 777-300ER aircraft. Such improvements increased the frequency of the routes upping the flights per week from seven to 11.
Air China celebrated a 25th anniversary in 2013, and the airline tested its wireless LAN technology in flight for the very first time that year. In 2015, the company announced that it had chosen 60 Boeing 737 Next Generation and 737 MAX aircraft for a fleet renewal program. The project is still underway with an estimated cost of $6 billion.
Will you be one of the over 50 million people to fly Air China this year?