China's 'best': What you need to know about Xiamen Air

MANILA, Philippines – Xiamen Air (formerly Xiamen Airlines) got stuck in the middle of a controversy after one of its aircraft slid off a NAIA runway during a heavy downpour, affecting several other flights. 

It has since apologized for the domino effect of problems the accident caused. The Chinese airline will now have to initially pay P15 million to the Philippine government to cover the rental cost of equipment used to remove the aircraft from the runway, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal said.

Established in 1984, Xiamen Air is one of China’s oldest airline companies with 34 years of operations under its belt. It was initially developed to connect the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian to the rest of country. 

The airline is based at the Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport and considers Fuzhou and Wuyishan airports as its secondary hubs. 

As of early 2018, Xiamen Air’s fleet had about 163 aircraft which fly through more than 400 domestic and international routes to over 1,074 destinations. They have flights to and from 177 countries – mostly in Asia, Europe, and North America. 

It was only in 2015 when Xiamen Air was able to conduct an inter-continental flight after decades of only short-distance flights to other Asian countries.  The airline company’s first destination outside Asia was Amsterdam in Europe before eventually flying to North America in later years. 

President's choice. Chinese President Xi Jinping checks out the Boeing aircraft being built for XiamenAir. Photo from Xiamen Airlines Facebook

President's choice. Chinese President Xi Jinping checks out the Boeing aircraft being built for XiamenAir.

Photo from Xiamen Airlines Facebook

‘China’s best’ 

Its company profile boasts of Xiamen Air as having the “highest international financial rating” among all Chinese airlines. 

In fact, a report by the South China Morning Post said Chinese President Xi Jinping described the airline as “an epitome of China’s civil aviation development." 

According to its financial records, Xiamen Air has eaned revenues of 120 billion yuan with profits of 12.7 billion yuan since 2009. 

The Center for Aviation (CAPA), a respected aviation and travel trade website, said that it was “most consistently profitable” in the past two decades.  

Data from CAPA also shows that Xiamen Air is a privately-owned company. Its major shareholders include: China Southern Airlines with 55%, Xiamen Construction & Development Group with 34%, and Fujian Investment & Development Group with 11%. 

‘Accident-free’?

According to its company profile, Xiamen Air has already “accumulated 4 million hours of accident-free flight.” 

This data, however, was prior to what happened on August 16 when its Boeing-737 slid off a NAIA runway during a heavy downpour. 

While there were no casualties or injuries, thousands of airline passengers were stranded as flights at the NAIA were canceled and diverted due to the closure of the affected runway. It was only reopened nearly two days after on August 18. (READ: What to do when your flight gets canceled) 

Before the NAIA mishap, the last major incident involving Xiamen Air was in 1990 when its aircraft was hijacked by 21-year-old manThat plane collided with two other planes while attempting to land at the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport.

Aboout 128 people died in that incident.

The database of the Aviation Safety Network, meanwhile, has recorded at least 11 incidents involving aircraft of Xiamen Air. These include 9 hijacking incidents with suspects demanding that the flights be diverted to Taiwan. – Rappler.com

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.

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