Qantas and China Eastern Airlines have announced a new joint venture this week, designed to cater to the increasing number of Qantas customers travelling to China, particularly in the fast-growing business sector. The deal proposes that the two airlines be able to co-ordinate schedules and pricing on the key Sydney-Shanghai route.
While Qantas already have a six-year-old codeshare relationship with China Eastern, this new agreement will help to forge an even stronger bond, with enhanced options for passengers.
Ultimately, Qantas hopes the partnership will open up new routes between Australia and mainland China, for example between Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth to Shanghai. The arrangements mirror the Qantas-Emirates partnership for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and the Qantas-American Airlines partnership for the US.
Some see this agreement as a major wake-up call for Virgin Australia who, while they have comprehensive links into China via Singapore with Singapore Airlines, have a glaring lack of direct flights into either mainland China or Hong Kong on their timetable. No matter how strong your loyalty to Virgin Australia and its partners, a flight that gets you to Shanghai hours faster is a crucial selling point in favour of Qantas.
The agreement between Qantas and China Eastern is yet to be officially approved by regulators, but it is anticipated that it will be able to commence mid-2015. Stay tuned for more details over the coming months.