The Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Star Alliance and Air China in a special ceremony In Beijing on Tuesday, follows the announcement earlier this month that Shanghai Airlines had accepted an invitation to become a member of the alliance.

"This is great news for the Star Alliance network and international travellers," said John Whittaker, Air New Zealand's General Manager Operations International Airline.

"Air New Zealand is strongly focused on China as a future growth market with services three times a week to Shanghai on our new B777 aircraft beginning later this year. We are currently working to secure code share arrangements with both Air China and Shanghai Airlines and hope to launch these to coincide with our new Shanghai service," said Mr Whittaker.

"Having both these Chinese carriers as alliance partners in the future will offer travellers outbound from China unparalleled connections to Air New Zealand's services to/ from and within New Zealand. Also, our customers flying to China will be offered numerous domestic connections from Shanghai to continue their journey within China itself," he said.

Once both Air China and Shanghai Airlines become full members, the Star Alliance network will grow to 20 members, offering more than 16,500 daily flights to 912 destinations in 160 countries.

China is currently experiencing extraordinary growth in demand for outbound travel, with a middle class of over 250 million, and Chinese visitor numbers to New Zealand growing at an average rate of 23 percent over the last five years.

Editor's Note:

Shanghai Airlines
Based in Shanghai and established in 1985, Shanghai Airlines is China's first commercial airline. It operates to 140 destinations within China and ten international destinations including Japan, South Korea, Russia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Shanghai Airlines has a fleet of 42 aircraft with plans to introduce a further 30 aircraft by 2010.

Air China
Air China, the national flag carrier, was formed on October 11, 2002, a combination of the old Air China, China National Aviation Company and China Southwest Airlines. Air China is based in Beijing and operates to 70 domestic destinations and 36 international destinations with around 4,160 scheduled flights weekly. Air China has a fleet of 176 aircraft which includes 42 large jet aircraft - Boeing 747s, 767s, 777s and Airbus A340s.

Star Alliance
Star Alliance was established in 1997 as the first airline alliance to offer customers a truly global travel experience. Current members are Air Canada, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, bmi, LOT Polish airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Spanair, SWISS, TAP Portugual, THAI, United, US Airways and VARIG Brazilian Airlines. There are also three regional member carriers.

ENDS

Issued by Air New Zealand Public Affairs 09 336 2761

NOTE: The content of all Air New Zealand media releases are accurate at the time of issue, as stated at the top of each release. For updates on any changes, please contact Air New Zealand.

Air New Zealand is proud to be a member of Star Alliance. The Star Alliance network was established in 1997 as the first truly global airline alliance to offer worldwide reach, recognition and seamless service to the international traveller. Its acceptance by the market has been recognised by numerous awards, including the Air Transport World Market Leadership Award, Best Airline Alliance by both Business Traveller Magazine and Skytrax. The member airlines are: Adria Airways, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Blue1, bmi, Continental Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EGYPTAIR, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Spanair, SWISS, TAP Portugal, Turkish Airlines, THAI, United and US Airways. Aegean Airlines, Air India, Brussels Airlines and TAM have been announced as future members. Overall, the Star Alliance network offers 19,500 daily flights to 1,071 airports in 171 countries.

For more information about Air New Zealand visit www.airnewzealand.com and for more information about Star Alliance visit www.staralliance.com.