Air China and TAM to codeshare

Washington DC
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Brazilian operator TAM will begin codesharing with Star alliance member Air China this month on flights between Sao Paulo and Beijing ahead of the Latin American carrier formally joining the alliance.

TAM plans to carry Air China's code on its flights between Sao Paulo and Madrid's Barajas International airport. TAM passengers will then be able to connect to Beijing from Madrid on Air China-operated flights carrying the TAM code. Air China passengers will be able to make the trip from Beijing to Sao Paulo with the Madrid connection.

The partnership is TAM's first with an Asian airline, TAM commercial and planning vice president Paulo Castello Branco says in a statement.

The Air China pact is TAM's latest codeshare with a Star alliance member. The carrier has gradually tightened ties with Star members Lufthansa, Air Canada, United Airlines, TAP Portugal and UK-based BMI as TAM aims to join the Star alliance by the fourth quarter of 2009.

Star announced last October that it had approved TAM's application to join the alliance, which currently does not have Latin American members.

TAM has until the end of the first quarter of 2010 to finalize membership, which is likely to carry financial benefits.

Joining Star is expected to result in $60 million in additional annual revenues "and probably there will be a reduction in costs beyond this", TAM CFO Libano Miranda Barroso told analysts during the first quarter of this year.