Don't you just love airlines' code-sharing deals? Thanks to the magic of code-share, European low-cost carrier Air Berlin,which started life ferrying German tourists to the Spanish holiday island of Mallorca, will next year be batting in the big league with direct flights to China.
It joins a growing number of big-name airlines, both western and Chinese, hoping to take advantage of the soaring tourism and trade links between China and the west.
Air Berlin's code-share with Hainan Airlines will give it a direct flight to Beijing four times a week. Air Berlin ain't such a bad airline, at least when compared with other LCCs, so EngagingChina wishes the venture well.
Nevertheless, I suspect that European tourists used to the spartan but efficient service of Air Berlin could be in for something of a shock when they find out that their Air Berlin flight to Beijing is actually operated by a Chinese airline — although one with a pretty good reputation.
However, I can't see too many German business travellers giving up their beloved Lufthansa, which already flies from Frankfurt and Munich to Shanghai, Peking and Canton and HK.
Soaring trade between the west and China has meant that direct flights into China are much in demand. Air China, the country's largest international carrier, will add flights to Toronto, Rome and 10 other European and North American cities by the end of 2009. Meanwhile, China Southern Airlines will begin five new overseas routes by the end of 2009.
Delta and US Airways, the only big US carriers without China flights, have just won US permission to fly to China, whose aviation is forecast to grow 15% annually through 2010.
Its not just passenger traffic that is booming either. Chinese freight company Link Global Logistics has just begun regular flights between Zhengzhou, in Henan province, and its newly purchased airport in northern Germany.
Earlier this week, the first cargo plane took off from Zhengzhou bound for Parchim airport, near the German city of Schwerin, midway between Berlin and Hamburg.
It is cheaper for the company to to fly to Parchim rather than the much bigger airports like Frankfurt or Hamburg, a company spokesman said.
Link Global signed a contract to buy the airport in May for 1 billion yuan and took over its operations in July. It is the first Chinese firm to gain permission to run a European airport.
Parchim, a former Soviet airbase, was intended in the 1990s to become a provincial airport but failed to attract business, lost money and now specialises in air freight only. More here.