TransNusa Comac ARJ21 Cabin Revealed?

Indonesia’s TransNusa took delivery of its first Comac ARJ21-700 in December 2022. Despite this milestone, the airline has been rather quiet about the aircraft; apart from local and Mainland Chinese news reports, there has not been any publicity from the airline about the plane. However, it looks like we might have an indication of the cabins on the TransNusa ARJ21…

The Comac ARJ21 order

In January 2021, TransNusa, through its main investor, China Aircraft Leasing Corporation (CALC), announced an order for 30 COMAC ARJ21-700s, with options for 30 more. While CALC is based in Hong Kong, I would speculate some political and/or economic interest behind this order. While the plane has been in commercial service since 2016, all of its operators had solely been Mainland Chinese airlines, most of which state-owned. As such, this order and delivery made a fuss in both countries, also garnering significant media attention.

Despite any connotations the aircraft may have gotten, being the first foreign country to operate it still generated a lot of pride. In fact, even when boarding a recent TransNusa flight to Bali, I overheard much enthusiasm from the airline’s personnel as the ARJ taxied past our jetbridge; a few of the ground staff excitedly pointed at it, exclaiming amidst each other, ‘That’s our new plane, right there’!

Is this TransNusa’s ARJ21 Cabin?

Despite the significant media coverage in Indonesia, none I’ve seen so far had shown the plane’s interiors. As I had been very curious about this novel aircraft type, I even kept track of it nearly regularly, waiting for its flights to be loaded onto the system. Yesterday, I came across this video on YouTube by the Chinese state media reporting the delivery. The following are several screenshots from the video that purportedly show the plane’s cabin:

TransNusa’s ARJ21 Cabin (picture: Chinese state media)
Exit row on TransNusa’s ARJ21 (picture: Chinese state media)

Whilst I had no clue what was spoken in the report, it does very much look like this is TransNusa’s ARJ21 cabin. For one, the Bahasa Indonesia signage by the emergency exits and on the seats surely gave it off. Another Chinese-language report, also shows that the aircraft is fitted with 95 economy seats in a standard 3-2 configuration. This is in line with the aircraft data on The plane’s overhead storage lockers are also shown, which frankly looked very small, like those on an Embraer 190. Thankfully all domestic Indonesian flights include checked luggage provisions.

Overhead storage lockers on TransNusa’s ARJ21 (picture: Chinese state media)

Thoughts on the Cabin

Up to now, all Comac ARJ21s have been delivered with an up to 90-seat configuration. These extra 5 seats would constitute an extra row, making TransNusa’s cabin the tightest in the industry. Knowing that a 90-seat configuration has an average of 31” seat pitch, we could estimate the pitch here to be around 29”. As such, this cabin would be a far cry from the exceptional cabins on their A320neo or even their normal A320-200.

Seats on TransNusa’s ARJ21 (picture: Chinese state media)

The cabin comes across as no-frills and generic. In fact, the deep navy leather seats remind me of a Lion Air 737 cabin. Sadly, all of this shouldn’t come as a surprise, since TransNusa is a low-cost carrier after all. Perhaps the airline’s relaunching with their A320neo simply had set a false expectation.

In spite of that, these jets are poised to serve short and frequent shuttle flights, so hopefully, the tight cabins wouldn’t be an issue. Regardless, the avgeek in me is still very much looking forward to trying this new ARJ. We’ve seen much movement of the plane in recent days, yesterday even flying internationally to Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru.

Closing thoughts

It looks like the answer to TransNusa’s mysterious ARJ21 cabin had been in plain sight. While not featuring the excellent cabins I’ve come to expect from the airline, the new and frankly rare aircraft type is still a very interesting one, particularly to avgeeks like myself. What’s left to do is to actually fly on one of these planes!

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