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Shandong Airlines orders 50 Boeing planes

BEIJING -- Shandong Airlines, one of China's smaller carriers, said it has agreed to buy 50 passenger planes from U.S. manufacturer Boeing for US$4.6 billion, in another sign of the country's growing demand for air travel.

The company signed a deal on Monday to purchase 16 Boeing 737-800s and 34 Boeing 737 MAX planes, a statement said, in a drive to grow its fleet for future business expansion.

China's commercial airline industry is dominated by the “Big Three” — flag carrier Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines — but a move towards greater competition has seen the growth of smaller players.

The order represents a win for Boeing in the giant Chinese market and a vote of confidence in its newest family of single-aisle planes, the 737 MAX, which promises greater fuel efficiency.

The manufacturer will begin deliveries of the 737 MAX to global customers beginning in 2017, according to Boeing's website.

Boeing could not be reached to confirm the order, but it typically allows the customer to make the announcement.

Shandong Airlines aims to increase its fleet to more than 140 aircraft by the end of 2020, roughly doubling its total stock of planes, China's official Xinhua News Agency late Monday quoted an airline official as saying.

It already operates 67 Boeing 737 planes, Xinhua said.

The airline, based in the eastern province of Shandong, will receive the aircraft in batches between 2016 and 2020, the statement said.

Shandong Airlines, established in 1994, is controlled by the Shandong Aviation Group which is backed by several government shareholders including Air China and the Shandong Economic Development and Investment Co.

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