Hainan Airlines entered widebody operations on October 31, 2002 when it received the first of three new 767s it had on order from Boeing. The three aircraft, B-2490-92, arrived over three months and enabled Hainan to connect Beijing with Haikou, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Urumqi using widebodies and begin expansion into regional international markets with routes to such destinations as Macau, Korea and Japan.
Hainan Airlines has however faced some frustrations in breaking into long-haul routes partly because of the Chinese government's distaste for competition between Chinese airlines in the international sphere, which in Hainan's case is excacerbated by sharing a Beijing hub with Air China. Hainan's introduction of long-haul services occured in a curious fashion in August 2004 when an agreement was signed between it and Malev to operate the Beijing-Budapest route thrice weekly with its 767s. The agreement saw Malev sell 100 of the seats on every flight, which initially was operated in an all economy configuration.
Hainan's second European destination was Brussels in 2006. The two European routes were the beginning of a conscious strategy by the airline to focus on intercontinental long-haul routes rather than regional ones, a strategy which was backed up by the HNA Group ordering over 40 787s in 2005 - 10 of which were to be for Hainan. The 787s were long delayed however that didn't stop Hainan from expanding further. As early as July 2004 a pair of ex-Sobelair 767-300s were leased and these served for three years before being replaced by a new widebody type in the fleet.
Hainan Airlines received its first of 7 ordered A330-200s in November 2007 supplementing the three owned 767-300s which had been the airline’s first widebodies in 2002. Hainan's European network continued to expand with services to destinations such as Berlin (started September 5, 2006) and Zurich. B-6520 was the first of 8 stretched A330-300s to arrive and these have enabled Hainan to upgauge some of its long-haul routes. Starting in 2015 Hainan will for example replace series 200s on the Berlin and Brussels routes with the larger series 300s. The series 300s can be seen on Hainan’s increasingly large network at destinations as varied as Moscow, Zurich, Budapest, Sydney and St Petersburg operating from Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. As of September 2015 Hainan operates 20 A330s (9 -200s and 11 -300s).
In recent years Hainan's expansion has been towards North America using its new 787s leaving the European routes the domain of the A330s and 767s. New A330s are still on order but for the timebeing the three 767s continue to ply Hainan's long-haul and high density domestic services. In part 2 we'll take a look at Hainan's North American expansion.
2004/06. Hainan Airlines Begins Budapest 8/2. Airliners.Net
2006. Hainan Starts Beijing-Brussels. Airliners.Net
Hainan Airlines Fleet. Airfleets.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: