This article appears in the April 29 edition of Aviation Week & Space Technology.
Change is in the air at China Eastern Airlines. Though the only move that can be definitely expected is a move into low-cost operations, China’s third-largest carrier says it is in a transformational stage. Most notably, six years after the collapse of a deal with Singapore Airlines, it is talking again about securing a strategic investor, partly to help improve its management.
The state company is looking for more independence, pushing the idea that, in accordance with a new theme in Chinese economic policy, the government does not need to hold most of its shares and—reading between the lines—that managers should have a freer hand in running the carrier. 
They have not reached that stage yet, however, and for the moment they seem to be concentrating on the best opportunity that is immediately available to them: budget operations. China Eastern Chairman Liu Shaoyong and other senior executives have lately checked out EasyJet and Ryanair, as well as full-service carrier Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), the Chinese airline says. In an internal report to employees this month, China Eastern’s managers emphasize EasyJet’s great success in online ticket sales, Ryanair’s record of continuous profits and the high loyalty of SAS customers. Like other Chinese state airlines, China Eastern does not have a notably strong record in any of those areas.