EVA Air is set to expand its global presence as it has been confirmed that it is joining the Star Alliance, with the process scheduled to complete next year.

The alliance’s chief executive Mark Schwab formally announced that the board has unanimously accepted the membership application of EVA at a ceremony today.

“EVA Air is a very good fit for Star Alliance as the airline will add many new routes to our global network, with a specific focus on the Far East,” said Schwab.

New destinations that will be added to the Star Alliance network as a result of EVA’s entry are Kaohsiung in Taiwan and Surabaya in Indonesia.

For Taiwan’s second largest flight operator after China Airlines (a Skyteam member), the new membership not only means the ability to offer its passengers connections to more than 1,300 destinations through 26 other member airlines, including regions previously off limit to EVA such as Africa, but also access to some 980 lounges around the world and more opportunities to earn rewards.

Schwab also pointed out that being part of the alliance can help an airline cope with these days of high fuel costs through joint sourcing.

“One of the benefits we are able to offer our members is by pooling our purchasing of fuel around the world,” he added.

EVA, on the other hand, plans to save fuel by restructuring its deployment of aircraft as new deliveries arrive.

The airline has 15 B777-300ERs with a further three on firm order to be delivered from 2014 onwards, and another four under negotiation. The airline says these aircraft will be deployed for the transit traffic anticipated from the mainland, when the US relaxes visa restrictions for Chinese travellers.

Eva has been playing an active role in making Taoyuan airport in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, a transit hub between Southeast Asia and North America, with 45 weekly flights to the latter.

EVA president James Jeng, who also attended the ceremony, said that another major potential market was Mainland China, which has in recent years established direct links with the island.

“Unfortunately, those passengers holding mainland passports cannot transit in Taipei. This is the most important issue we need to resolve. We are talking to the government and if this burden can be lifted, mainland China is a big yard for Taipei,” said Jeng.

The political status of Taiwan, considered by Beijing as a renegade province, has always been a hindrance to its ability to tap into the growing mainland market. Prior to December 2008, air travel between the two sides was often done via Hong Kong.

EVA’s membership to Star Alliance is signifying further improvement in relations between Taiwan and China – as it was recommended by mainland’s flag carrier Air China, which is also the mentor airline for the integration process needed for EVA to become a finalised Star Alliance member.

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