SHANGHAISHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese privately-owned carrier Juneyao Airlines said it will join global airline alliance group Star Alliance in 2017, giving it a springboard for planned international expansion as more Chinese tourists travel overseas.

Juneyao will join the world's largest airline alliance as a "connecting partner" rather than as a full member, linking it up with airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and Air China, the firm said at an event in Shanghai on Monday.

The airline, one of China's largest private carriers, said it aimed to open new routes to North America, Europe and Australia by 2020, and that joining the alliance would help add at least 700 new routes to its network.


"Putting our networks together allows us to cover the whole globe," Juneyao vice president of marketing, Yu Chengji, said at the event.

The Shanghai-based company, which first flew in 2006, currently operates domestic routes or short-haul international flights to neighboring countries such as Japan, South Korea and Thailand, but is eyeing long-haul, intercontinental routes.

The agreement with Star Alliance, which will come into effect from the second quarter of next year, had been years in the making, CEO of the alliance, Mark Schwab, said. Juneyao had been concerned that it was not ready to become a full member, which he said would require a significant investment from the airline.

Both parties did not say how much Juneyao is investing to join the alliance.

Being part of the alliance, however, means airlines can share services such as check-in counters and lounges and more directly connect onto flights with carriers within the alliance, thereby opening up more routes it can offer its customers.

Chinese tourists have been ramping up their number of trips and spending overseas, a windfall for airlines and tourism operators who have been looking to cash in on the boom.


"(This tie-up) allows us to achieve our goals, lower our costs and provide more services to our passengers," Juneyao chairman Wang Junjin said.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Michael Perry and Muralikumar Anantharaman)