Operations began with leased Boeing 707s. Between May and October five were leased, registered B-2422-6. The initial livery consisted of a thick blue cheatline with a blue tail and white crane logo. It wasn't particularly beautiful but having your own livery in China in the 1980s was quite a radical idea in itself. The 707s had a varied ancestry with two originally delivered to Continental, 1 to Qantas, 1 to Western and 1 to Braniff. Needless to say they had all seen extensive use on the second-hand market with all five having served with Arrow Air at one time.
The 707s were only ever a stopgap type and CAAC had already begun itself to re-equip with Boeing 757s. Shanghai Airlines also got in on this re-equipment and received its first, B-2808, in August 1989. Three were in service by 1991 (B-2808-810) and were joined by two more in 1993 (B-2833-34), one in 1994 (B-2842) and another in 1995 (B-2843). Shanghai Airlines returned to the type in 2003 when it took six more including B-2876, the last and 1050th Boeing 757-200 built. The 707s were returned to their lessor between 1988 and 1991 with only one aircraft receiving the colourful red livery which the 757s introduced. The 757s themselves were the mainstay of the fleet well into the 2000s, though their numbers were gradually dwarfed by 737NGs. The type continued in service until March 21, 2015 when B-2875 operated its last service from Harbin to Shanghai Pudong.
Shanghai Airlines developed in parallel with its larger Shanghai based neighbour China Eastern Airlines (formerly the Shanghai bureau of the CAAC). Its competitive position was enhanced in 1994 when it received its first widebody aircraft - a new Boeing 767-300. The order for five aircraft had been placed in 1993 and as with their 757s Shanghai chose Pratt & Whitney engines to power the Boeing jets. Only four of the five aircraft were eventually delivered and all were standard 767-36Ds rather than extended range ERs. The first aircraft, B-2563, arrived on July 22, 1994 and there was then an extended pause for several years until B-2567 arrived on January 29, 1998. A third aircraft, B-2570 was delivered on October 21, 1999 and the fourth as late as August 23, 2001. Shanghai Airlines looked to acquire extra 767s prior to receiving its first 787s in 1998 (a delivery which never eventuated) and took on a pair of 767-36DERs (B-2500 & 2566) in 2006.
In 1997 Shanghai airlines broke out from purely domestic services and inaugurated international service to South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Macau. It entered the 2000s with a fleet of 7 757s, 3 767s and 4 737-700s. The first of the latter, B-2631, would join the fleet in April 1998 and it would be the 737 that Shanghai would build its fleet around in the coming decade. We'll investigate that in part 2.
Timetable image from the collection of David Zekria at timetableimages.com
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: