Global airline network Star Alliance is adding Chinese carrier Shenzhen Airlines to its ranks. The carrier, based just across the Pearl River from Hong Kong, joins its majority shareholder Air China to be the second Chinese airline member of the alliance.
Travellers from Australia to China have particular reason to look forward to Shenzhen Airlines' arrival, planned for October 2012.
With a remarkable domestic network from its hub at Shenzhen's Bao'an International Airport, connection options and the opportunity to earn miles and points on Star Alliance members' frequent flyer programs will increase.
With few international flights, travellers are probably unfamiliar with Shenzhen Airlines, which is the fourth largest Chinese carrier.
Serving mostly domestic Chinese routes, with a few flights to Japan, Korea, Taiwan and southeast Asian destinations thrown in, its network is centred on Shenzhen.
But flights also run to and between other hubs: Guangzhou and Nanning in south China, Nanjing and Wuxi in eastern China, and Shenyang in northeastern China. That reinforcement of the alliance's Chinese network outside Beijing, the home of Air China, will reduce connections and transit time for travellers.
And the addition of five new cities -- Juzhou (Quzhou), Linyi, Qinhuangdao, Shijiazhuang and Zhoushan -- to the Star Alliance network will also be useful.
With parent company Air China taking a great leap forward in Australia-China flights by introducing fully flat beds last week, the significance of Shenzhen Airlines joining the Star Alliance may well signify international aspirations at the airline.