On the 25th of June 1988, under the CAAC Huadong Administration, China Eastern Airlines was founded in Shanghai, People’s Republic of China.
In 1997, since China General Aviation was not profitable anymore, China Eastern Airlines incorporated it, becoming the first Chinese airline to offer its shares on the international market.
One year later, China Eastern founded China Cargo Airlines, as a joint venture with COSCO.
In March 2001, China Eastern Airlines took over Great Wall Airlines.
Two years later, China Yunnan Airlines and China Northwest Airlines were merged into China Eastern Airlines.
In 2007, China Eastern Airlines began servicing its first African destination, Johannesburg (via Mali), but ended the route one year later.
Another successful merge took place on June 2009, when it was announced that, in order to reduce excessive competition, Shanghai Airlines began to fuse with China Eastern. This newly established union aimed towards consolidating Shanghai’s status on the international aviation scene.
In February 2010, when the merge was completed, China Eastern Airlines owned Shanghai Airlines as a subsidiary with its own brand and livery. Half of the market share in Shanghai was expected to be owned by the newly formed alliance.
On the 18th of October 2011, China Eastern ordered 15 Airbus A330, in an attempt of expanding its passenger fleet.
March 2012 marks an important date for China Eastern, who was announced to start establishing the foundation of a new alliance, this time with Qantas Group. This alliance’s purpose was setting up a new low-cost airline for the Hong Kong International Airport, which will be known as Jetstar Hong Kong and will commence operations in 2013.
In April 2012, twenty Boeing 777-300ERs were ordered from Boeing, drawing attention to China Eastern Airlines’ attempt to phase out its five Airbus A340-600s.
In September 2014, the airline received its first 777-300ER aircraft, and 18 more were delivered by June 2017.
In 2015, China Eastern Airlines entered a partnership with Delta Airlines. Also, as the Hong Kong authority refused to issue the operating license to Jetstar Hong Kong, China Eastern and Qantas announced the end of the investment.
In 2016, China Eastern Airlines announced its plans to introduce new cabin products for its Airbus A330-300 aircraft: the Vantage XL model from Thompson Aero lie-flat Business Class seat and new Economy Class seats with extra legroom (38 inches). Also, China Eastern Airlines ordered new long-haul aircraft, 20 Airbus A350-900XWB and 15 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, which are scheduled for delivery from 2018 and will offer a four-class configuration, including a new Premium Economy Class.
In May 2017, China Eastern Airlines received its first of the 15 Airbus A330 aircraft ordered in 2015.
In November 2018, two new wide-body types of aircraft joined China Eastern Airlines’ fleet, Boeing B787 9 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 900. Both aircraft, featuring a modern and comfortable four-class cabin layout, were assigned to fly select domestic services in China before starting to operate long-haul routes to Europe, North America, and Australia.
In October 2019, it was announced that China Eastern’s current joint-venture cooperation with Air France and KLM is enlarged with the addition of Virgin Atlantic. The new joint venture formed to operate flights between Europe and China is leveraging China Eastern’s powerful presence in the Asian nation as China’s second-largest carrier by passenger numbers. If approved, the new agreement would formally replace the current joint venture between China Eastern, Air France, and KLM starting spring 2020.
China Eastern Airlines was involved in four deadly incidents, the first taking place in August 1989 and ending with 34 victims, while the last one happened in late November 2004, when Flight 5210, a Bombardier CRJ-200 jet, crashed in Inner Mongolia, killing all 53 people on board.