Qantas, China Eastern alliance extended to 2023

The partnership takes on new importance in helping to re-establish air travel between Australia and China.

By David Flynn, February 17 2021
Qantas, China Eastern alliance extended to 2023

Qantas and China Eastern Airlines will continue their partnership until at least March 2023, following approval by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission of the ongoing 'joint coordination agreement' between the two carriers.

However, the impact of COVID-19 played a large part in the consumer watchdog's decision to give a tick to the tie-up.

In its determination, the ACCC said "in times of more normal levels of demand for services between Sydney and Shanghai, as was the case prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and likely will be again in the medium to long term, the lessening in competition between the Applicants on the Sydney – Shanghai route as a result of the Proposed Conduct is likely to result in a significant public detriment."

When Qantas and China Eastern launched their partnership in 2015, both airlines flew between Sydney and Shanghai, with that route accounting for an estimated 23% of all travel on direct flights between Australia and China.

How COVID changed the equation

"However, the ACCC notes that current demand for flights between Australia and China is low and there is uncertainty about the extent and timing of a recovery in demand that is likely to occur."

"Further, it is not apparent that if Qantas and China Eastern were operating independently of each other, there would be sufficient recovery in demand to fuel a strong return to the route for both airlines in the short term. As noted, the ACCC considers that the extended JCA will assist Qantas and China Eastern in reinstating services as demand picks up."

As previously reported, Qantas also intends to establish a similar 'joint business' partnership with Japan Airlines, promising new routes and improved frequent flyer benefits between the two Oneworld members from the second half of 2021.

Qantas says "the coordination made possible through a joint business would enable Qantas and JAL to ramp up flights between Australia and Japan sooner than would otherwise be possible."

China Eastern's sweet business suites

China Eastern's pre-pandemic schedule saw both the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 flying from Shanghai to Australia, with each jet boasting the airline's latest private business class and seats bookable using Qantas Points.

This highly-customised version of Thompson Aero's Vantage XL+, developed by London-based aviation specialist studio Factorydesign, sees  each seat framed by high walls and a sliding privacy door.

The first row of the cabin raises the bar with four super-spacious 'business plus' seats, each with its own mini-bar and an upsized 32 inch touchscreen display.

The paired middle seats can double as a social space or ad hoc meeting room for four passengers by opening up an extra-wide table and flipping over each suite's ottoman to reveal a padded, seatbelt-equipped companion bench.

But if you're flying solo, the window seats certainly won't see you slumming it.

ET review: China Eastern Airbus A350 business class


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1193

QF's loads on Sydney to Shanghai were low well before the pandemic so it is probably unlikely that QF will rush to re-institute the route with their own metal.  

I was never a big fan of the China Eastern partnership for a couple of reasons.  The first is that China Eastern's service is pretty ordinary.  The second is that China Eastern only offered lounge access to QF Gold frequent flyers when they were joining services to Australia.  If you were flying to HKG, for example, no access was available for gold FFs unless they were flying in J.

If QF do abandon its services to Shanghai, it looks like I'll be using CX when I go to China.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 416

Loads were low? Are you serious? Every time I was on that flight with QF to or from, it was FULL.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1193

Last 2 times I went (both 2019) I was in Economy and both times I had the 4 middle seats all to myself.  Last time was August 2019 and there was only 40 people on the entire A330.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Mar 2016

Total posts 55

I flew China Eastern Brisbane to Shanghai and back from Tokyo via Shanghai in November 2019 and found the service to be acceptable. The main benefit was that it was easier getting a seat in business class on CE then Qantas.

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