United and Air China deal opens door to future joint opportunities

Air China and United Airlines have signed a multi-year agreement to strengthen their long-standing strategic partnership. In addition to the long-term extension of their agreement, Air China and United have established a joint strategic initiative that will significantly deepen coordination between the two airlines for the benefit of their customers in China and the United States.

Through the expanded initiative, Air China and United will work together to elevate their product offering to customers across the travel experience, including expanding connecting flight opportunities to further enhance their industry-leading joint network between China and the United States.

They are also looking to create a more seamless experience for customers when traveling through key gateway airports, such as Beijing and San Francisco, while coordinating and expanding joint marketing and product-enhancement opportunities in both the United States and China

"Both the United States and China are crucial for the international aviation market. I firmly believe that the strengthened partnership between United and Air China will provide better and more convenient services for the passengers in the joint Sino-US market," said Song Zhiyong, president, Air China.

The new initiative will be led by senior executives from both carriers, who will meet regularly to coordinate new initiative rollouts, promote closer cultural integration between Air China and United, and prepare both companies for future joint opportunities, according to a joint statement.

The two airlines have had a close relationship for more than a decade having first introduced a marketing alignment and codeshare in 2003.

“This agreement marks a significant milestone in our long-standing cooperation and further distinguishes United and Air China as the leading carriers between the US and China," said Oscar Munoz, president and chief executive officer, United Airlines.

United currently serves three mainland China destinations (Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai) non-stop from its Asia-Pacific gateway at San Francisco and will launch additional services to Xi'an from May 8, 2016 and Hangzhou from July 13, 2016, subject to government approval.

Air China launched its first scheduled Transpacific flight between the US and China, from Beijing to New York in January 1981 – it currently provides non-stop services from Beijing to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Washington Dulles, Honolulu, New York JFK and Newark, subject to government approval. The airline will launch another non-stop flight to San Jose from Shanghai this summer and strengthen the capacity of its Beijing-San Francisco service in early August.

United celebrated 30 years of operations to mainland China in February this year and alongside its San Francisco operations also serves Beijing from Chicago, Newark and Washington/Dulles and Shanghai from Chicago, Guam, Los Angeles and Newark.

Through its partnership with Air China, both members of Star Alliance, it currently operates the largest network between China and the United States. Last year the two together carried more than 2.7 million customers between the two countries offering 16 Transpacific non-stop routes between China and the United States and codeshare options on 47 routes in China and 72 routes in the US and Mexico.

Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen has travelled across the globe to report on developments in the aviation sector as airlines and airports have continued to evolve and…