American Airlines has purchased $200 million of shares in China Southern Airlines – the largest of China’s three state-owned carriers.

The US airline, which will own a 2.7 per cent stake in its new partner, is aiming for a larger share of China’s growing aviation market.

Later this year, the two airlines are expected to start codeshare and interline agreements. And for both China Southern and American Airlines, the deal is expected to improve access to smaller cities, increasing the number of routes both firms can offer between the world’s two largest travel markets.

“China Southern’s extensive network within China touches developing and thriving markets that only a Chinese carrier can reach and they have a reputation and record of excellence,” said Robert Isom, president of American Airlines. “We are two of the biggest carriers in the world and our networks are highly complementary, with the potential to offer China Southern and American customers an unmatched range of destinations in two critical markets for business and leisure travelers,” he added.

China Southern Chairman Wang Cheng Shun, said: “We’re pleased to begin this relationship to better connect two of the world’s largest aviation markets and leading economies. Our cooperation has the possibility to create enormous benefits for our industry and customers around the world as we work to offer them more travel options and better value.”

A similar deal in 2015 saw Delta spend $450 million to purchase a 3.55 per cent stake in China Eastern Airlines.

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