China Airlines (CAL) has formally begun the process of joining SkyTeam by mid-2011 after signing a letter of intent with the alliance in Taipei.

The Taiwanese carrier's move comes a few months after Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines signalled its intent to join SkyTeam, and solidifies the alliance's presence in the Greater China market. Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines is already a member of SkyTeam.

 China Airlines A330
 ©Airteamimages/Andrew Hunt
"The inclusion of China Airlines in our network will solidify SkyTeam's unrivalled presence in the Greater China market, a region that continues to experience significant economic growth," says Leo van Wijk, chairman of the alliance's board.

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"In addition to the services provided by our existing members, China Airlines offers an extensive cross-straits operation, linking Taiwan to multiple major destinations in China. Also, Taipei will serve as an alternative Asian hub with services to and from key business destinations in the region."

Joining the alliance is a "long-term development strategy" for CAL, says its chairman Philip Wei.

"For many years, we have been actively promoting various types of cooperation with SkyTeam member airlines," he adds. "As the first Taiwanese airline to join the world-class alliance, our strategic target is to continuously strengthen profitability and boost international market competitiveness."

The airline adds that cooperation with China Southern and China Eastern will maximise their network across the Straits in both passenger and cargo operations.

CAL will be SkyTeam's fifth Asian member, with Korean Air and Vietnam Airlines already part of the group.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news