In an elaborate ceremony taking place in one of the hangers of Shenzhen International Airport today, chief executive of Star Alliance Mark Schwab officially announced Shenzhen Airlines' becoming the 32nd member of the network. The event was attended by more than 20 chief executives, presidents or senior executives of other member airlines.
As reported earlier by Business Traveller (see here) Shenzhen Airlines will add five new Chinese destinations to the Star Alliance network, namely Juzhou (Zhejiang), Linyi, Qinhuangdao, Shijiazhuang and Zhoushan. In total, the carrier will add 400 daily flights and 70 destinations to Star Alliance. As a result, the network will offer 23,000 daily flights to 1,315 destinations in 190 countries.
It has taken the airline some one and a half years to satisfy 87 components to officially become a full member.
Feng Gang, the president of Shenzhen Airlines said: "After 16 months of integration work, we have become a Star Alliance member. we know that today no single airline alone can tend to the needs of the international business traveller." He added that his airline's admission to the global alliance is in line with the government's strategy to upgrade Shenzhen to an international city.
While the membership certainly helps raise Shenzhen Airlines' international profile and connectivity, what does it bring to the Star Alliance other than the five second- and third-tier Chinese cities, especially when Air China has already been a member since 2005?
"Connectivity within China is what it's all about. It's not only the service into China, but service within China; that's how you make a convincing proposition to flyers who need go everywhere. Do I think our Star members will come running to start long-haul services into Shenzhen? No. But it will build over time, I guarantee you, as the strength of the network grows over here," Schwab said, pointing to the terminal 3 at Shenzhen airport that is currently under construction. "That fantastic terminal being built over there will make it a more attractive proposition, and this city's GDP growth is staggering. But right now, it's about rounding out the connectivity within the country."
He also thinks that in terms of regional connection, Shenzhen Airlines has good synergy with other members of the alliance.
"Star Alliance has 21,500 flights a day, and Shenzhen Airlines is bringing 400 daily flights in 70 cities in China. In terms of global share it is not that big, but in terms of presence in this part of world it is quite sign. We have ANA, Asiana, Air China, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and Air New Zealand, and next year we'll welcome EVA Air, which not only has long-haul East to West services, but great network cross-strait from Taiwan into many points within China.
"The business phenomenon is, people who are coming out to this region from whatever part of the world are going to multiple destinations, connecting them more efficiently is the way to do it. The guys who sell cellphones might need to look at R&D in Taiwan, manufacturing here, and banking in Shanghai. We connect all of those cities, as a comprehensive offering to the business set."
Shenzhen Airlines' regional reach is increasing as well. According to the carrier's executive vice-president Walter Liu, having just begun flying to Singapore, the airline is looking into more Southeast Asian destinations, although details are not yet available.
Shenzhen Airlines' PheonixMiles Frequent Flyer (FFP) members can now collect and redeem miles on the entire Star Alliance network, and the FFP members of all other Star Alliance carriers can now receive mileage credits for eligible flights on Shenzhen Airlines.
Shenzhen Airlines is part-owner by Air China (see here) and is the fifth largest carrier in the country. It serves some 70 locations on the Chinese mainland as well as Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei, Osaka, Tokyo and Seoul with a fleet of 102 passenger and cargo aircraft, specifically Boeing 747s and 737s, and Airbus 320s and 319s.
For more information, visit http://global.shenzhenair.com and www.staralliance.com