In 1937, one of the first airlines in China – Eurasia Airlines (欧亚航空公司) – started to recruit flight attendants for the first time.

Suitable applicants had to meet the following conditions: aged between 20-25 years of age, proper demeanor/appearance, height 1.5 m -1.7 m, weight 40-59 kg, speak Mandarin, Cantonese, English,  and read and write in English and Chinese. Because of the conditions, in January 1938, only six qualified. Over the next ten years, the number of stewardesses surged to an overwhelming level of more than 20 people.


These stewardesses were part of Eurasia airlines which started in February 1931 as a joint venture between the Nationalist Government and Lufthansa Airlines. It operated routes served by China Eastern today — Shanghai – Lanzhou – Dihua (modern Urumqi), Peking – Guangzhou, Lanzhou – Baotou and Xi’an – Kunming and other routes.

After the start of the Second World War, the Germany forfeited its shares in the airline and in March 1943 Eurasia Airlines reorganized as the Central Air Transport Corporation (CATC – 中央航空运输公司). In 1949, CATC totaled of nearly 3,000 employees, 26 domestic and international routes and 44 aircraft.

Sian. [Eurasia Aviation Corporation.] Our magic carpet

“Two Airline Incident”

By the end of World War II, there were three major airlines in the Republic of China – CATC, China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC – 中国航空公司), and the Civil Air Transport Inc. (民航空运公司). During the latter part of the Chinese civil war, Government of the Republic of China began to  retreat to Taiwan. Civil Air Transportation was the first airline to rebase its fleet to Taiwan and continued operating out of Songshan Airport into the 1970’s.

In 1948, CATC and CNAC began ferrying dozens of aircraft successively to Hong Kong. However, after the Central People’s Government of China proclaimed itself the Chinese Government on October 1, 1949, the two company’s general manager’s – Liu Jingyi and Chen Zhuo Lin – decided that defection to communist China was a better path than retreat to Taiwan.


On the morning of November 9, 1949, they flew 12 aircraft (a CV-240, three C-46, and eight C-47) into the mainland area controlled by the Communist Party of China. Eleven aircraft flew to Tianjin. The remaining aircraft flew to Beijing where the managers were greeted by Communist Party officials and generals.

Following the two airline incident, the mangers dispatched communications to the remaining employees Hong Kong and overseas offices to join them back in China. In all, a total of 2,000 employees and 80 aircraft defected to the mainland. The managers and their defecting staff later served to form the backbone of the Civil Aviation Administration of China and the first state airline CAAC (中国民航).

Civil Air Transport Inc v. Central Air Transport Corp
[1952] 2 All Eng L. R. 733

In an effort to save the remaining CATC aircraft based in Hong Kong from the Communists, the Nationalist government sold the remaining aircraft to two Americans with the provision that the aircraft were not to be used for the transportation to or from Communist China.

This sale was followed by an action to quiet title in the local Hong Kong court. The action made its way to the Supreme Court of Hong Kong who ruled that because the British Government recognized the Communist Government as the Government of China the transaction was invalid.

However, upon appeal to the the privy counsel in Britain, the Court found the transaction valid as it occurred a few months before Britain officially recognized the Communist Government. The remaining aircraft were immediately transferred to an American Aircraft Carrier and shipped back the United States.

The only company that still survives of the big three is CNAC which remains incorporated in Hong Kong as subsidiary of Civil Aviation Administration of China and possesses a majority of Air China and Air Macau.



The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 47, No. 2 (Apr., 1953), pp. 328-331