Codeshare flights on the new Qantas/China Southern alliance are now on sale for travel from May 1 as Qantas looks to boost its relevance to Australians travelling to China.
Under the agreement, Qantas travellers will be be able to book and fly codeshare China Southern flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to Guangzhou – China's third-largest city which sits at the heart of the southern manufacturing region, as well as being home to the massive twice-yearly Canton Trade Fair.
However, onward connections will be initially restricted to the regional Chinese cities of Xiamen, Kunming, Fuzhou and Urumqi.
In return, inbound China Southern passengers will able to book on nine different Qantas routes within Australia and on flights between Sydney and Auckland for travel from today.
A Qantas spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller that the ability of Qantas Frequent Flyers to earn points and status credits on China Southern flights with a CZ code, along with access to status-based perks such as reciprocal lounge access it yet to be announced.
China Southern has been steadily increasing its Australian flights and in October introduced a daily Airbus A380 as one of its two daily Sydney-Guangzhou services, although that's now been swapped out for an A330, at least for the time being.
China Southern is also promoting its Canton Route from Australia to London, Paris and Amsterdam via Guangzhou as an alternative to the Kangaroo Route, with competitive fares undercutting those of major airlines by as much as 30% – although the airline admits that it needs to lift its oft-criticised levels of service.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said he was "very pleased to have China Southern as a partner in the world’s fastest growing aviation market."
“Partnership is key to our strategy in Asia and we’re very pleased to now have China Southern as one of our codeshare partners in the world’s fastest growing aviation market,” said Mr Joyce.
“Qantas is now in a unique position of having commercial relationships with the three biggest carriers in Greater China. We have codeshare agreements with China Southern and China Eastern, and through oneworld, a relationship with Cathay Pacific."
In sharing the breadth of the Red Roo's Asia network, Qantas International CEO Simon Hickey said that partnerships "are at the core of our strategy in Asia and together with our airline partners, we’re pleased to now offer customers access to 179 flights to 12 cities in Asia each week, with fares available to over 120 additional Asian cities."
On its own Qantas currently has only one flight into China, in the form of its daily Sydney-Shanghai service.
Joyce: no 'silver bullet' for Asia
Last year, in a media briefing following Qantas' 2012-2013 financial results, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce observed that "our Asia strategy is not a 'big bang', there isn't a single big deal that will solve the issues".
"There isn't an Asian 'silver bullet', there's no single carrier like Emirates" he expanded. "You have to work individual markets and work with the best players in each market."
Qantas has been steadily stitching up its Asian network map along with retiming selected Singapore flights, increasing the number of Airbus A380s between Sydney and Hong Kong and investing in new lounges for Singapore and Hong Kong.
A Qantas spokeswoman told Australian Business Traveller that with codeshare partner flights included, "Qantas operates over 140 flights to Asia each week, with direct flights to 11 cities, and fares available with partner airlines to over 120 more cities in Asia", adding that "about one fifth of the Qantas Group revenue now comes from Asia."
Alan Joyce's previous push into Asia centred on a multimillion dollar investment in creating a new premium airline, codenamed Red Q, which was to be based in either Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, although the plans were shelved in November 2011.
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