Comac C919: Is it a real threat to Airbus, and Boeing duopoly of the single-aisle aircraft market?

China Eastern Airlines operated its first revenue flight two weeks ago using the first China-designed and assembled airliner Comac C919. Since then, media outlets worldwide kept reporting news and analysis about the new rival of Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 MAX. Media, including social media platforms, went on to say that C919 will break Airbus and Boeing's duopoly. But is it true that C919 can do it? Can it impose a real threat on the American and European planemakers?


The specialized media outlets made all kinds of comparisons and analyses about the three, single aisle, airliners. Comparisons of the number of passengers, range, engine types, prices, and many other specifications, we will get to that later, but the most important questions that were not answered are, can Comac C919 be sold and operated outside China? Who would be the potential customers for an aircraft that still taking baby steps in the industry?

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Even though comparisons of the C919, A320, and 737 MAX are all over the web and social media, there is no harm in looking at them again.

Now that we have seen the figures, let's get some conclusions. As can be seen in the above figures, the A320 and 737 MAX are superior in range and number of passengers. In an earlier statement, Comac announced that an extended-range version of the C919 airliner will be developed, but no time frame was mentioned. In actual fact, C919 should not even be compared to A320, maybe the A319 when it comes to range and number of passengers.

Operating Outside China

Since we have done comparisons, let's try to answer some questions. First, can C919 be sold and operated outside China? It's known that air travel mega markets worldwide are U.S., Europe, and China. And this is when politics would come into the picture. Even though China deliberately used Western components for C919 to facilitate certification in Europe and U.S., FAA and EASA will not make it easy for the Chinese aircraft. Regulators in both continents will tend to protect the planemakers on the two sides of the Atlantic. Therefore, certification would consume extended time. On the other hand, European and American suppliers can cause delays in the manufacturing and delivery of the Chinese airliner due to supply chain issues and giving priority to Airbus and Boeing. If C919 can not get certified by FAA and EASA, it won't be sold in countries outside Europe and the U.S. that certify aircraft based on FAA and EASA certifications.

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Potential Customers

The other question would be, who are the potential customers for the Chinese aircraft in the near future? Mostly, countries who - for one reason or the other- banned the ability to obtain Western aircraft. Russia for example, ever since the beginning of the military operation in Ukraine, is suffering difficulties in operating and maintaining its fleet of Western-made aircraft due to sanctions imposed by Europe and America that may last for many years to come. Iran and North Korea also can be potential customers. Both countries are operating a fleet of aircraft that can be described, with a clear conscience, as ancient! Both countries will be more than happy to obtain new aircraft to modernize their fleet away from Western domination. Not to mention reasonable prices. Reasonable prices would be another attractive element for countries and airlines with limited financial resources, especially in Africa. Even though the three aircraft look to be within the same price range, planemakers give massive discounts. For example, Nigeria announced last October that the country would consider buying C919 for a new national carrier.  More potential customers would be countries having strong ties with China in Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.


In general conclusion, C919 will not be a direct threat to Airbus and Boeing in the near future. Both Western planemakers have recently secured orders that will keep them busy until the end of the decade. C919 will not be a real competitor before it gets certified by FAA and EASA, until then, it will remain a domestic airliner to be operated only in China or in very few other countries.

Endless Possibilities

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