Hainan Airlines is nowadays a well known and respected airline. Its beginnings were much less grand but by 2000 it had innovated its way to success achieving a number of firsts for Chinese airlines. For Westerners however it was probably the advent of China’s first special schemes that raised its profile the most.
Hainan Airlines achieved a range of firsts. It was the first Chinese airline to:
The latter point made a big difference in the visibility of the airline, which prior to this had had two very low key jet liveries, both featuring mainly white fuselages. At least the later blue tail scheme presented plenty of canvas for special colours and in later years Chinese airlines have proven to be wide adopters of special liveries for a wide variety of purposes.
It’s a little unclear when exactly the special schemes were first introduced but late 1998 or early 1999 appear to be in the right ballpark. Not all the fleet were painted into special liveries but in the end ten members would wear the first two tranches of special schemes.
The first four aircraft were all Boeing 737-300s, which were decorated to wear schemes featuring botanical motifs using the plum blossom, orchid, chrysanthemum and bamboo. These four plants are known as the ‘four gentlemen’ in Chinese culture.
The four 737-300s were decorated as follows:
B-2578 wore the pink and red Plum Blossom version:
B-2937 acquired a Green Bamboo scheme:
B-2579 acquired a lovely blue Orchid scheme:
B-2938 took on the yellow and orange Chrysanthemum scheme below:
One of the 737-400s (B-2576) would also be delivered in a flower scheme. She arrived in April 1999 wearing a red plum blossom scheme different to that worn by B-2578.
The floral 737-300s would wear their special schemes for most of their Hainan careers, even after Hainan altered its livery to orange and red. In fact B-2938 would continue to wear the Chrysanthemum scheme even after she was transferred to sister company West Air.
The series 300s were just the first group of special Hainan liveries and in part 2 we'll look at schemes on the larger series 800s.
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: