South Korean airline is smaller than flag carrier rival but will give alliance greater access to mainland China

Star Alliance hopes the recruitment of Asiana Airlines into its global grouping on 1 March will not only boost its presence in South Korea, but also give it greater access to mainland China, a country where it is yet to sign on a local carrier.

Asiana is smaller than SkyTeam's Korean Air but has more flights to mainland China - 146 a week covering 13 cities, compared with Korean's eight destinations.

"Through the membership of Asiana Airlines, Star Alliance has been able to leapfrog the competition," says Star Alliance chief executive Jaan Albrecht.

Star will now have nearly 600 flights a week to mainland China and an additional eight destinations including Harbin, Guilin and Shenzhen.

Asiana hopes its induction into Star will boost efforts to establish Seoul's Incheon International Airport as an aviation hub for flights into mainland China. It also plans to make use of its membership by starting codeshare flights with United Airlines to four US cities starting around May and to Vancouver with Air Canada, starting around November.

Star is yet to sign on a Chinese airline. "There are talks going on and there's real business happening on a bilateral basis," says Lufthansa chairman Jurgen Weber, whose airline has 30 codeshare flights each week with Air China.

Source: Flight International