One of China's largest private carriers, with big ambitions and a promising future, Juneyao Airlines is also Star Alliance's first Connecting Partner. We've travelled to Shanghai and Qingdao for a few days to witness the welcoming ceremony, but also to fly with Juneyao between the two cities and sample genuine Chinese hospitality.
To begin with, a few words about Juneyao Airlines (Juneyao means "auspicious"). It is a major carrier based in Shanghai and Nanjing, operating both domestic and international flights from Shanghai's two airports: Pudong (PVG) and Hongqiao (SHA). The company was founded in 2005 as a subsidiary of JuneYao Group and started operations in September 2006. Juneyao Airlines' business scope includes domestic / international aviation passengers and cargo services, the manufacture, freight and technology import / export businesses of aircrafts pars and accessories, as well as aviation services from Mainland to Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and neighboring countries.
On May 23rd 2017, Juneyao Airlines became the first airline to expand the Star Alliance network as a Connecting Partner. Under the Alliance’s innovative partnership concept, the Juneyao Airlines now offers Star Alliance passengers new transfer opportunities at either of Shanghai’s two airports - Pudong International and Hongqiao International. For all connecting passengers through check-in will be offered in both directions and all qualifying Star Alliance Gold Status passengers will be provided the following privileges on their Juneyao Airlines connecting flights: lounge access, Fast Track security, additional baggage, priority check-in, boarding, stand-by and baggage Delivery.
“With Juneyao Airlines as a Connecting Partner we have achieved two important goals. First, as an alliance we can offer regional airlines an attractive way to connect to our global alliance network, without requiring full membership. Going forward, this will enable us to strategically enhance our network. Second, with Juneyao Airlines we strengthen our market position in Shanghai, a city which is already served by 17 of our member airlines and which will now offer even better connectivity to our customers”, said Jeffrey Goh, CEO Star Alliance. “In our 11 year history we have grown into a medium-sized airline operating 62 Airbus A320-family aircraft. Being selected as a Connecting Partner by Star Alliance for providing additional connectivity through Shanghai is recognition of our dedication to service. We hope that Star Alliance customers will enjoy our hospitality”, said Wang Junjin, Chairman Juneyao Airlines.
The Connecting Partner Model allows regional, low-cost or hybrid airlines to link to the Star Alliance network without having to become a full member. For customers this gives access to additional travel options beyond the current 1,300 airports served by the Alliance’s 28 member airlines. Connecting Partners are carefully selected and need to adhere to the high operating standards required by the Alliance. Connecting Partners also enter into bilateral commercial agreements with selected Star Alliance member airlines, which may include Frequent Flyer Program based privileges. In case of Juneyao Airlines, Frequent Flyer Members of Air Canada, Air China, EVA Air, Singapore Airlines and United will be able to earn and burn miles when travelling on the Chinese carrier.
Today, the all-Airbus fleet of Juneyao Airlines with an average age of just 3 years - the youngest for any domestic operator in China - comprises 62 aircraft: 41 A320s and 21 A321s. At the beginning of 2017, Juneyao Airlines placed an order for five 787-9 Dreamliners, valued at $1.3 billion at current list prices. This order, which also includes options for five more 787-9s, represents Juneyao Airlines' first Boeing order and its first widebody airplane order. The first of these Dreamliners will be delivered in September 2018, and by the end of next year Juneyao Airlines will have three 787-9s in its fleet. With the help of these widebodies, Juneyao plans to open new routes to North America, Europe and Australia by 2020 and to have 100 aircraft in the fleet. At a press conference in Shanghai marking the entry into Star Alliance's Connecting Partner program, Junjin Wang - the airline's CEO - said the first 787 destinations haven't been decided yet, but reaffirmed that Europe, North America and Australia are important international markets.
Since the launch of operations, Juneyao Airlines has constantly expanded its network to capital cities and popular tourist destinations while also progressively opening up international and regional routes (21) to Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Russia. So far, Juneyao Airlines has opened over 90 domestic routes out of Shanghai and Nanjing to Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzen, Harbin, Shenyang, Changchun, Dalian, Xi'an, Urumqi, Chengdu, Kunming, Guilin, Sanya, Tianjing, Qingdao, Xiamen, Osaka, Phuket, Bangkok, Taipei, Macao and other cities. To further develop its network - targeted at middle-to-high level official, business and private tourism markets - Juneyao Airlines plans to open more routes in Asia while setting its sights on international expansion. Today, Juneyao Airlines carries almost 1200 million passengers every year, a number that will surely increase in the future.
"The right trip home" is a tagline we've noticed on a Juneyao Airlines presentation brochure. What does it mean? To find out, we boarded a Juneyao Airlines domestic flight to Qingdao, spent one night there, then returned to Shanghai with another company A321. However, before we took off to Qingdao we spent one hour in Juneyao Airlines' VIP Lounge at Shanghai's Pudong International Airport. At the entrance of the lounge we were greeted by two smiling cabin crew, who invited us to unwind in the lounge after the long flight from Frankfurt, home of Star Alliance. The first thing we noticed in the lounge was the interesting mix of colors, materials and design lines which created an inviting atmosphere. Unlike some Business and First Class lounges we've sampled around the world, Juneyao's had a personal touch, a "home away from home" feeling; a cozy, relaxing personal space rather than another section of a huge airport. As expected, the VIP Lounge features Juneyao Airlines' signature colors - a major tone of wine red and elegant golden - enriched with the element of Phoenix. The mix of colors and patterns represents auspiciousness (Gold represents Yang and Jade represents Yin), embodying both traditional and global connotations, a blend of "sophistication and enthusiasm".
Arriving into the VIP Lounge also meant meeting our lovely Chinese hosts from Juneyao Airlines and catching up with our friends from Star Alliance, as well as other journalists from all over the world. We had lunch and relaxed a bit in the dedicated massage chairs, then headed to the boarding gate, ready for the 1h flight to Qingdao. Our ride to and from Qingdao was an Airbus A321 with two travel cabins: Business Class (First, as Juneyao calls it) and Economy. On the flight to Qingdao we flew First, while on the return leg we sat in Economy so we can experience both travel classes. Both flights were smooth, with sunny weather on the way and fluffy clouds. From the moment we've boarded the plane, Juneyao's cabin crew members smiled a lot and exuded Chinese hospitality. You could really tell that they were loving their job, they loved flying and wanted to make passengers feel as comfortable as possible.
And this means a lot for frequent flyers or for passengers taking their first flight. If I were to describe the flying experience with Juneyao Airlines, I'd say it was a service with a difference, the right trip home - coming back to the carrier's concept. In a world where technology is, more or less, the same for airlines or hotels and resorts welcoming leisure or business guests, there's one thing that makes the difference: service. It can make the difference between a memorable journey you can't wait to experience again and a lousy one, between a nice travel story worth sharing with others and an experience you'd like to forget as soon as possible.
If you're traveling to China and from there onwards you have to fly on domestic / regional routes, opt for Juneyao Airlines. Likewise, go with Juneyao if you're looking for a carrier to take you from China to neighboring destinations outside of the country. Together with Star Alliance - the world's first and largest airline alliance, founded in Frankfurt on 14th May 1997 - Juneyao Airlines now offers even more travel opportunities. Just book a trip, pack your luggage and head for the airport.
We can't wait to return to China and fly with Juneyao Airlines again!