SHANGHAI, April 16 /PRNewswire/ -- China Eastern Airlines today announced its intention to join the SkyTeam Airline Alliance. During an official ceremony in Shanghai, China Eastern President and Chief Executive Officer Ma Xulun joined the CEOs of SkyTeam member airlines to sign a Memorandum of Understanding confirming China Eastern's plans to join the SkyTeam Alliance by mid-2011. With China Eastern as a partner, SkyTeam passengers will benefit from improved access to SkyTeam's extensive Chinese domestic network.
China Eastern, headquartered in Shanghai, is situated in the most economically developed region and the fastest growing city of China. The signing ceremony took place at the Xijiao State Guest House in Shanghai, witnessed by Chairman Liu Shaoyong of China Eastern, Chairman of the SkyTeam Governing Board Leo van Wijk and Managing Director of SkyTeam Marie-Joseph Male. Among other witnesses were the Vice Mayor of the Shanghai Municipal Government and representatives of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC).
"Today, China Eastern has taken an important step towards its future growth and the SkyTeam members are honored to be part of this journey," said Leo van Wijk. "I cannot emphasize the importance of China's position in the global economy enough and increasing our network presence in this rapidly growing and dynamic part of the world will bring more benefits to both our members and customers. In our 10th anniversary year, the commitment shown by China Eastern will further strengthen SkyTeam's position as a leading alliance for the future."
"Joining an international airline alliance is China Eastern Airlines' strategic deployment to continuously strengthen core profitability and boost market competitiveness," said Mr. Liu. "For China Eastern Airlines, joining SkyTeam is the just way leading to a globalized market, which will provide wider space for growth. It offers rare opportunities to absorb successful experiences and realize great-leap-forward developments. It provides ideal chances to raise management level, improve operation quality and accelerate the application of information technology.
Maximizing the Chinese, Asian and global network
With the addition of a second Chinese airline, SkyTeam customers worldwide will benefit from greater access to China and Asia Pacific. Servicing more than 150 destinations in China and abroad, China Eastern provides an extensive route network. Current SkyTeam member China Southern already covers China through its hubs in Guangzhou and Beijing. Together with China Eastern and its hub in Shanghai, SkyTeam will be able to offer services out of the three major Chinese markets. China Eastern will bring 25 unique new destinations that will enrich SkyTeam's current network. The China Eastern network also covers Southeast Asia, Europe, North America, South Africa and Australia. Combined with Korean Air, the three Asian carriers will further strengthen SkyTeam's presence in Asia.
China Eastern's growth ambitions reach far beyond Asia. Cooperation with Delta Air Lines and Aeromexico offers great potential in the trans-Pacific and Latin American markets. At the same time, increasing growth figures to and from Europe will be obtained through China Eastern's cooperation with Aeroflot, Air France, Alitalia, CSA Czech Airlines and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
Mr. Male shared some more detail about the joining process: "The next step is expected to be taken in June 2010, when China Eastern and SkyTeam will sign an alliance agreement that will lead to the official SkyTeam membership with an effective entry around mid 2011." Also in June, SkyTeam plans to welcome two additional members to the alliance, Vietnam Airlines of Vietnam and TAROM of Romania.
SkyTeam is the global airline alliance partnering nine members: Aeroflot, Aeromexico, Air France, Alitalia, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Korean Air, and two Associate Airlines: Air Europa, and Kenya Airways. SkyTeam offers its 384 million annual passengers a worldwide system of more than 13,133 daily flights covering 856 destinations in 169 countries. The alliance will celebrate its 10th anniversary in June 2010. www.skyteam.com.