Delta is to spend $450 million to purchase a 3.55 per cent stake in China Eastern Airlines.

The two Skyteam members announced the deal as part of an agreement to expand their relationship. If the deal is approved by both companies’ board, Delta will become the first US airline to own part of a Chinese carrier.

The two airlines already have a codeshare agreement, which is currently operating on 30 domestic US routes, 43 domestic China routes and seven routes between the US and China.

Delta CEO Richard Anderson said there was already a “longstanding” relationship with Shanghai-based China Eastern.

“For the past three years, Delta has welcomed members of the China Eastern team at our headquarters for sharing best practices and work study opportunities,” he added.

“We have learned much from one another already and look forward to deepening our already effective partnership.”

China Eastern currently operates 35 weekly flights from Shanghai to Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Honolulu, as well as three flights a week from Nanjing to Los Angeles.

China Eastern’s CEO Shaoyong Liu added: “The co-operation of the parties is based on a global vision and joint strategic blueprint.

“The parties will take advantage of their respective route networks, flight services, relevant businesses and advantageous resources to fully connect the world’s two top economies as well as two top air transportation markets.”

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