The new joint venture was signed by Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce, and China Eastern Chairman Liu Shaoyong at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia.
The agreement is subject to regulatory approval, and will deliver substantial benefits for customers as well as supporting the growing trade, tourism and corporate links between Australia and China.
Under the new partnership, the airlines hope to open up new routes between Australia and mainland China, such as Brisbane and Perth to Shanghai. The agreement is designed to complement the Qantas/Emirates partnership for Europe, Middle East and North Africa, and the Qantas/American Airlines partnership for the US.
The airlines, which have had a codeshare agreement since 2008, will both operate from Terminal 1 at Shanghai International Airport, under the new agreement, meaning that transit times will be cut by approximately an hour, and will open up a better range of onward connections for customers.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the airline was looking forward to working more closely with China Eastern to increase the number of Qantas customers travelling to Shanghai and beyond.
“Coordination means the opportunity to improve schedules and connection times, and to deliver improved products such as a joint lounge and streamlined check-in facilities in Shanghai. It will be a win for our customers and, by making it easier for Chinese travellers to visit Australia, a win for trade and tourism,” he said.
Qantas currently flies daily between Sydney and Shanghai, the airline’s sole destination in mainland China. In Oceania, China Eastern currently flies to Melbourne and Sydney from its Shanghai hub and has previously served Cairns.
The Flying Kangaroo is due to commence a four-time weekly seasonal service between Shanghai and Auckland from December 9, 2014, which will increase to a daily service in January 2015, until March 28, 2015.
In welcoming the agreement, China Eastern Chairman Liu Shaoyong said: “Australia is one of the most important tourist destinations and trade markets for China, and Qantas is the key partner for China Eastern in Australia.”
“It’s important for us to strengthen the cooperation with Qantas to provide better, more convenient travel products for passengers between the two countries,” added Liu Shaoyong.
China is Australia’s largest two-way trading partner in goods and services, and its largest goods export destination and its largest source of merchandise imports. China is also Australia’s most valuable inbound tourism market, and is expected to be worth $9 billion annually to the Australian economy by 2020.