Shanghai's Juneyao Airlines has become the newest member of Star Alliance, with the Chinese airline now listed as the group's first 'Connecting Partner'.
Rather than the full Star Alliance membership enjoyed by countrymates Air China and Shenzhen Airlines, alongside regional heavy-hitters Singapore Airlines, ANA and Asiana, the Connecting Partner model is focussed on providing some of the Alliance's most valued travel traits to members connecting between that airline and a full Star Alliance member.
The baseline for these benefits is 'though check-in' service including baggage handling plus 'recovery services' in the event of disruptions such as cancelled flights, including flight re-accomodation so that travellers can get back on the move.
Lounge access will be available for Gold-grade Star Alliance members provided the airline already has its own lounges – a relative luxury which some low-cost carriers eschew.
Another 'maybe' component of the Connecting Partner mix is the ability to earn frequent flyer points with the Star Alliance member airline of your choice.
Connecting Partners have the option to enter into agreements with selected Star Alliance member airlines – most likely including those airlines which will provide the largest passengers feed – and must do so for at least three airlines, but there's no Alliance-wide coverage for crediting points or miles.
In the case of Juneyao Airlines, it has entered into what Star terms "a full commercial relationship" with Air Canada, Air China, EVA Air, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines.
Connecting to Juneyao Airlines
Juneyao's roster of perks will be quite extensive – including lounge access, fast track security, additional baggage allowance and priority check-in, boarding and baggage delivery – provided that passengers transferring between a Star Alliance airline and Juneyao Airlines. A stand-alone flight on Juneyao won't count for any such comforts.
“Juneyao Airlines was founded with the aim of offering a competitive and high quality product to both the business and leisure market," said Juneyao Airlines chairman Wang Junjin.
"We are looking forward to providing Star Alliance Gold Card holders with a wide selection of privileges when they connect to our airline."
Juneyao Airlines flies from both of Shanghai's Pudong and Hongqiao airports, with a network of domestic flights to over 80 destinations within China alongside some regional services.
"I'm pleased to say that Star Alliance is back in Shanghai" said Star Alliance CEO Jeffrey Goh in announcing the partnership at a Star Alliance media conference held in Frankfurt over the weekend.
“With Juneyao Airlines as a Connecting Partner we have achieved two important goals. First, as an alliance we can offer regional airlines an attractive way to connect to our global alliance network, without requiring full membership."
"Second, with Juneyao Airlines we strengthen our market position in Shanghai, a city which is already served by 17 of our member airlines and which will now offer even better connectivity to our customers."
Star's Connecting Partner model will see routes operated by second-tier airlines used to grow the Star Alliance network's reach beyond its 28 core members.
South African Airlines' low-cost offshoot Mango was due to be the first Connecting Partner but that's been put on the backburner due to internal issues including on-going financial losses and reorganisations which have seen both SAA and Mango lose their CEOs.
David Flynn is visiting Frankfurt as a guest of Star Alliance.