China Southern Airlines (ZNH) has revealed plans to increase its fleet to a staggering 2,000 aircraft by 2035 and is now exploring ways to cooperate with low-cost carriers, the company’s chief said on September 17, 2018, at the 2018 World Routes conference in Guangzhou, China.

The future is now

This is the plan: China Southern is aiming to increase its total fleet to 1,000 aircraft by 2020 and then by another 1,000 aircraft to reach its target of 2,000 by 2035, the Centre for Aviation informs.

Keeping in mind that, according to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) forecast, China will be the largest market in terms of annual additional passengers by 2036, with 921 million new passengers for a total of 1.5 billion, one could say that China Southern is wasting no time, by planning long-term to make sure it is one step ahead. That is the first point to consider.

“By 2020 there will be 200 million outbound tourists from China. This provides us with a lot of opportunities for development,” China Southern’s chief executive Tan Wangeng said at the conference in Guangzhou, according to Reuters.

The second point? That with these new plans, the Chinese carrier is making sure it positions itself ahead of its rivals in the region. Tan said China Southern was looking for ways to deal with the rise of budget carriers, particularly in China and Southeast Asia, where they compete for market share.

“[...] we are looking into the possibility of establishing more joint ventures. We haven’t tried with low-cost carriers yet, but we are considering how to cooperate with them,” the airline‘s chief was quoted as saying by Reuters.

The third point is this: China Southern announced on September 18, 2018, that the group’s fleet has already reached a total of 800 aircraft. However, many of these aircraft are narrow-bodies that serve regional and domestic markets.

Which is why, China Southern’s plans for its aggressive fleet expansion include having about 150 wide-body, long-haul aircraft by 2020, thus enabling the airline to broaden its route network, Aviation Week reports. Being able to fly to, say, South America, would also allow the carrier to compete not only with full-service carriers in the region, but also with other competitors around the world.

“Our fleet expansion aligns with the company’s overall strategy, which is to focus on long-haul markets,” Tan was quoted as saying at the conference by Aviation Week.

Plane hungry

Now that China Southern Group has 800 aircraft in its fleet, to reach the company’s goal of 2,000 aircraft by 2035, means that the carrier will have to more than double the size of its current fleet and do so in less than two decades.

But do not sweat it – China Southern is Asia’s largest airline by passenger numbers (in 2017, it carried more than 126 million passengers), it is also the largest by fleet size, so it may as well achieve its goal, if plane makers and chain suppliers can keep up with the production pace and rising demand.

For instance, U.S. aerospace giant Boeing has recently forecasted that Chinese airlines will buy 7,690 new aircraft worth $1.2 trillion over the next two decades, higher than previously predicted. China Southern may significantly contribute to these numbers.

China Southern’s current fleet consists of both Boeing (787, 777, 757, 747, and 737) and Airbus (A380, A350, A330, A321, A320, and A319) aircraft. It the first airline in the world to operate both Airbus A380 and Boeing 787.

To be more exact, Boeing’s orders and deliveries log through August 2018, shows that the airline has placed an order for a total of 196 B737s (737MAX, 737-300, 737-700 and 737-800); it has two orders for the B747s (747-400F); 19 orders for the B757s (757-200); 28 orders for B777 (777-200, 777-200ER, 777-300ER, 777F); and 15 for B787s (787-8, 787-9). The airline’s most recent order was for five 787-9s to be delivered on April 30, 2018.

Airbus’ orders and deliveries book shows that as of August 31, 2018, China Southern has a total of 264 orders from the plane maker: 14 for the A319ceo; 100 for the A320ceo; 77 for the A321ceo; 16 for the A330-200; 32 for the A330-300; 20 for the A350-900; and five for the A380. The airline also has seven A320neos and nine A321neos currently in operation.


Boeing has confirmed that China Southern Airlines has announced a commitment to purchase 80 737s.