Hainan Airlines (HNA) Group has suddenly, and quite by surprise to some, decided to turn Tianjin-based regional carrier Grand China Express into Tianjin Airlines.
But the real interesting thing about this change is that the Tianjin Government and the Tianjin Free Trade Zone will be investing money into the business. It sounds like all is not well at Grand China Express.
This announcement also comes just a few weeks after it was announced that Grand China Express had finally reached an agreement with Embraer to halve its order for Embraer ERJ-145s to 25 from 50. The ERJ-145s are assembled by joint-venture firm Harbin Embraer in northeast China's Harbin city.
Tianjin too has aspirations to be a centre for aircraft manufacturing and development. Earlier this week there was the first flight of the first Chinese-assembled Airbus A320. The Airbus assembly plant is in the Tianjin Free Trade Zone.
I wonder if Tianjin might use its leverage to get Embraer to shift its Chinese assembly work to Tianjin from Harbin. That's not such a far-fetched idea. Tianjin has already persuaded Chinese aerospace conglomerate AVIC to shift its A320 wing assembly plant to Tianjin from Xian.
But in the end, I don't know that investing in HNA Group's Grand China Express is such a smart idea. It is very hard for regional airlines to make money in China. And why rebrand the business Tianjin Airlines?
It makes sense if the airline is to only operate out of Tianjin but surely HNA Group wants the airline to become big and have bases in other cities. If that's the case, it doesn't make sense to call it Tianjin Airlines. If, for example, I'm wanting to fly from Chengdu in Sichuan province to Beijing then Air China or Sichuan Airlines is more likely to be top of mind.