Qatar Airways and China Southern have announced plans for a codeshare agreement to begin in January 2020.

Subject to regulatory approval, the move will see the airlines market one another’s flights in what they said would be the “first step” in strengthening their cooperation.

It will initially apply to Qatar Airways’ daily flights from Doha to the Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Beijing.

Qatar Airways acquired a 5 per cent stake in China Southern in December 2018.

Yesterday Qatar reported a loss of 2.3 billion Qatari riyals (£521m) for the full year to March 31, blaming higher fuel costs and foreign exchange fluctuations. It has also faced the second year of an embargo by neighbouring countries that has restricted its air routes.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker commented on the codeshare announcement: “In December 2018, when we announced our investment in China Southern Airlines, I noted the significant potential for cooperation between our two prestigious airlines.

“This codeshare agreement is the natural first step in us working together and leveraging our complementary strengths and resources to bring benefits to customers of both our airlines.”

China Southern launched a codeshare partnership with Dubai-based Emirates in June, meaning both airlines now have effectively two daily flights each between Guangzhou and Dubai. They plan to expand the codeshare to 18 routes between China and the Middle East/Africa.

China Southern has ambitious expansion plans, and wants to have the largest fleet in the world, with 1,000 planes by 2021 and 2,000 by 2035. It currently has more than 850 aircraft.

It also has codeshare agreements with British Airways, American Airlines and Finnair.

It is set to get around 40 per cent of slots at the new Beijing Daxing Airport, along with fellow state-owned carrier China Eastern, and says it wants to develop a “dual-hub” strategy in Guangzhou and Beijing.

China Southern outlines expansion plans at London-Zhengzhou launch,