Passengers to enjoy easier access to China as major airline joins global alliance

China Eastern officially joined the SkyTeam alliance June 21, in a move likely to further open up the country to international tourists.

China Eastern, which is China's second-largest carrier and among the world's largest airlines, joined the alliance alongside its subsidiary Shanghai Airlines, which offers regional flights within Asia.

Passengers flying on any of SkyTeam's global airlines, which include Air France, Delta, Alitalia, KLM, and Korean Air, will now be able to seamlessly book flights to a further 32 destinations, many within China.

Frequent flyer miles can also be earned and redeemed on China Eastern and Shanghai Airlines' flights.

Air China, the country's other major carrier, joined the Star Alliance in 2007 and is rapidly increasing the number of destinations it serves around the world.

However, because SkyTeam already counts China's largest airline, China Southern, among its members, the alliance now has a considerable advantage over both alliance competitors (Star Alliance and OneWorld) when it comes to operating within China, a destination rapidly becoming a major tourism destination.

According to state news agency Xinhua, China's Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang said June 21 that "foreign airlines are welcome to open new routes to China."

The Civil Aviation Administration of China expects a rise of 13 percent in traffic between 2011 and 2013, with the country's airlines expected to carry some 500 million passengers by 2015 - an incredible increase of some 262 percent in a decade.

This week, the world got a look at China Southern's first A380 "superjumbo" as its paint job was showed off, ahead of delivery in August of this year.