Building on an existing partnership, the new multi-year deal will see the two airlines increase the number of connecting flights they offer, launch new frequent flyer initiatives and undertake joint marketing and programmes in the US and China.
The new partnership will be led by senior executives from both carriers, who will meet regularly to coordinate new joint initiatives. Both airlines are members of the Star Alliance.
United currently flies direct from San Francisco to three cities in mainland China: Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu. And it will add two new routes this year, with flights from San Francisco to Xi’an starting in May and services to Hangzhou due to commence in July. The airline also links Beijing with Chicago, New York and Washington DC, and Shanghai with Chicago, Guam, New York and Los Angeles.
Air China operates direct flights from Beijing to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Washington DC, Honolulu, New York (JFK and Newark), and will start flying from Shanghai to the Californian city of San Jose this summer.
Combined, the two airlines carried more than 2.7 million passengers between the US and China in 2015.