Qantas Airways Ltd. (QAN), Australia’s largest carrier, expanded a code-share arrangement with China Eastern Airlines Corp. (670) that will more than double the number of direct services it offers to the Chinese mainland.
Passengers will be able to fly direct from Melbourne to Shanghai and between Sydney and Nanjing, Qantas said in an e- mailed statement today. The new arrangement, beginning May 1, will boost Sydney-based Qantas’s weekly direct services to mainland Chinese cities to 17 from seven.
Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce is targeting growth in Asia as part of a five-year transformation plan intended to turn around A$450 million ($471 million) of annual losses on international flights. Joyce is setting up a joint-venture budget airline with China Eastern in Hong Kong and already has a code-share agreement on domestic routes from Shanghai as the carrier targets the world’s second-largest aviation market.
“We said we would expand Qantas’s Asian network through our airline partnerships,” Andrew Hogg, Qantas International’s China manager, said in the statement. “We’re now delivering on that promise.”
Qantas is overhauling its Asian schedules as an alliance with Emirates that started March 31 allows it to move planes to more profitable routes in the region.
China Eastern flights stopping in Nanjing will continue on to Beijing, Qantas said. The Australian carrier currently flies to Beijing with its Jetstar budget carrier from Singapore and doesn’t have direct connections to the city on its own planes.
Qantas shares rose to a 20-month high today before the announcement. The stock advanced 1.6 percent to A$1.86 at the close in Sydney trading, the highest price since August 2011, taking its gains this year to 25 percent.
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