Star Alliance members Lufthansa and Air China on Monday, July 7, took the first step towards forming a joint venture that could boost flight options as soon as October.

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As a result of the agreement, Air China will provide Lufthansa with better access to China – the world’s No. 2 largest aviation market after the U.S., Lufthansa said in a statement.

The airlines signed a memorandum of understanding in Beijing. Lufthansa already has partnerships with United AIrlines and Air Canada between Europe and North America, as well as ANA on routes between Europe and Japan.

Both carriers are Star Alliance members.

The agreement comes as competition from other rival alliances rises in the China – Europe airline market, according to the Wall Street Journal’s coverage. It can also serve as a defensive play against rapidly growing Persian Gulf carriers such as Emirates Airlines that are trying to attract the same market by flying passengers through different hubs.

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