UAE-based Etihad Airways and mainland Chinese carrier China Southern Airlines have confirmed a new codeshare agreement that came into effect yesterday, providing provides China Southern with access to Etihad’s network from its Abu Dhabi hub.

The Chinese carrier’s “CZ” code will appear on Etihad’s daily Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu services henceforth, and passengers on these flights will then be able to connect to the more than 100 destinations to which Etihad flies.

Speaking about the agreement, China Airlines’ senior management on international cooperation, Zhang Lin, said it would enable both carriers to expand their global networks. “Through this partnership, China Southern Airlines will be able to extend our services globally – via Etihad Airways’ Abu Dhabi hub to the Middle East, Africa and Europe,” he said.

At the moment, miles from each airlines’ frequent-flyer programmes cannot be earned while travelling on codeshare routes operated by the other carrier, however a reciprocal loyalty partnership is being targeted for the near future that will enable miles earning and redemption across both airlines’ flights nation-wide.

For Etihad, the partnership entails a significant boon to its expansion into China, with executive vice president commercial, Mohammad Al Bulooki, calling it a “significant milestone in the airlines’ network development strategy and a key component of its footprint in the China market”.

He added, “This is a further example of our strategy of working with partners to extend our reach, and provide business and leisure travellers with more options. China is one of the fastest growing travel markets in the world, and one of the most competitive.”

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts China will become the world’s largest aviation market by 2024, and China Southern is claimed to be the country’s (and Asia’s) largest airline by fleet size.

The partnership between Etihad and China Southern is likely to add to the pressure already experienced by full-service carriers in Asia-Pacific, which have been losing out to the Gulf carriers as well as those on the Chinese mainland, and have had to significantly enhance cooperation with other airlines in order to better compete.

In particular, Cathay Pacific and Lufthansa recently announced a partnership aimed at taking on rival carriers in the Middle East and mainland China. Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines previously announced its own join-venture with Lufthansa, as well as a recent agreement with Air France in order to tackle growing competition.

Asian carriers are not the only ones that have been affected by competition from Gulf and mainland Chinese carriers, though. Earlier this year, American Airlines purchased 270 million shares in China Southern and began its own codeshare arrangement with the Chinese carrier – giving the Oneworld airline alliance member (which has no mainland Chinese member airlines) a much-needed foothold in the China market.

In related news, fellow UAE carrier Emirates was recently fined and barred from expanding its operations in China for six months following two safety violations.;