Equity investments from HNA Aviation Group and Nanshan Group in Virgin Australia will boost points opportunities for local business travellers heading to China.
HNA, the largest private operator of airlines in China, and Nashan, a private conglomerate that owns Qingdao Airlines, represent a strong aviation pedigree and crucial link to an important business travel market for Virgin Australia.
This strategic commercial alliance, particularly with HNA, is likely to give Virgin Australia customers additional options for direct flights between Australia and China and cross commercial opportunities including code-sharing, frequent flyer affiliation and lounge access.
At the moment, the most efficient options for getting to China on frequent flyer points are dominated by Oneworld Alliance carriers.
• Qantas (using Qantas, Cathay Pacific or Oneworld alliance partner points) - direct to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing.
• Japan Airlines (using Qantas points) - via Tokyo and Osaka into China.
• Cathay Pacific (using Qantas points) - via Hong Kong into China.
• Cathay Pacific (using Cathay points) - via Hong Kong into China.
• Malaysia Airlines (using Qantas or Malaysian points) - via Kuala Lumpur into China.
• Singapore Airlines (using KrisFlyer points) - via Singapore into Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou.
• Virgin Australia (with the Singapore network) - via Singapore into Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou.
• Virgin Australia with Etihad via Abu Dhabi China.
• Qantas with Emirates via Dubai into China.
• Qatar (using Qantas points) via Doha into China.
The limited points only options for flights into China, coupled with the no direct services to the up and coming Chengdu, Chongqing and Zhengzhou make Virgin Australia's latest equity investors so important.
While Qantas has a code-sharing arrangement with China Southern to fly directly from Sydney to Guangzhou, this option is only available for paid tickets or via the more expensive points plus pay.
The good news for local business travellers is Virgin Australia is an innovator in points partnerships with its world-first point conversion initiative with KrisFlyer a shining example. With strong Chinese partners now in play, Virgin Australia customers can expect more efficient options for flying to China's largely untapped and fast growing market.
Steve Hui is a CPA who now applies his expertise to maximising the value of frequent flyer and loyalty programs. His company iFLYflat is an industry leader in reward points management. Connect with Steve on Linkedin and follow him on Twitter.