Star Alliance members Lufthansa and Beijing-based Air China have signed a long-awaited deal which will see them co-ordinate flights and schedules between Europe and mainland China.

In a statement released today, Lufthansa’s CEO  said, “The Chinese aviation market is one of the most important growth markets worldwide.  We want to profit from this growth together.”

The Lufthansa/Air China arrangement is subject to regulatory approval.  It will start in the summer of 2017.

Lufthansa specialises in JV arrangements on routes to Asia.  It already has JV deals with Japan’s ANA and with Singapore Airlines (SIA).

As with its SIA deal the new one with Air China will cover two other Lufthansa group members, namely Austrian Airlines and Swiss.

Passengers will gain a greater choice of routings and departure points with all four airlines.

There has been no mention that fares might become keener for the average passenger.  However there may be more benefits made available to corporate accounts.

Lufthansa wants to strengthen its position in China to compete both with the Skyteam Alliance airlines and also the Gulf carriers.

Although the latter take a longer route to China (via the Gulf) their fares are keen and they offer a wide range of European departure points.

In recent months Lufthansa has had to struggle through a series of strikes both by pilots and cabin staff.  This has affected its earnings which, for the first half of the year, show a slight decline.

In addition, Lufthansa faces renewed industrial action from its pilots.  The latest round of talks between Lufthansa and the German pilots’ union (Vereinigung Cockpit) ended in failure.