Paul Phelan/CAIRNS

Qantas and China Eastern Airlines have finalised their partnership deal which will see the two airlines launching codeshare operations from mid-year.

The conclusion of the deal, which had been planned to take effect at the end of March, is understood to have come after the Chinese carrier was subjected to a safety audit.

Qantas is a member of the American Airlines/British Airways-led oneworld group. Sources within the alliance insist that any new membership admission will be in line with oneworld's commitment to new baseline operational and safety guidelines.

Members are apparently bound by an intra-alliance pact that gives the safety department of members the right of veto over new entrants.

Despite concerns over the safety records of other Chinese carriers, Qantas sources say China Eastern has undergone an intensive safety systems scrutiny based on oneworld alliance standards. Qantas has accepted the carrier as a codesharing partner, says the source.

The link will see Qantas and Shanghai-based China Eastern codesharing on two of the other's three weekly return flights, covering services from Sydney to Beijing and Shanghai. Qantas has said that linking frequent-flier programmes and co-operation at airports could follow a codeshare deal.

The confirmation of a link between oneworld partner Qantas and China Eastern is significant as the Asian carrier had been listed by Lufthansa chief Jurgen Weber as a prospective Chinese partner for oneworld's rival Star Alliance, although the group is now in talks with Air China.

Source: Flight International