Air France expands Asia links with Singapore Airlines tie-up

April 13 (Reuters) - Air France-KLM has signed a

code share deal with Singapore Airlines to boost its

network to Asia, following a similar move by rival Lufthansa

with Cathay Pacific as European airlines

battle back against rival Gulf carriers.

Both Air France and Lufthansa have been vocal critics of the

Gulf airlines, saying their expansion has led them to terminate

services to destinations in the Middle East, Asia and in

particular India over recent years.

But with carriers such as Emirates and Etihad suffering from

signs of weaker demand caused partly by currency fluctuations,

European carriers are fighting back.

Air France said on Thursday that it would add its AF code to

Singapore Airlines flights from Singapore to Melbourne and

Sydney, and on three routes to Malaysia and Thailand operated by

regional subsidiary Silkair.

In exchange, Singapore Airlines will add its SQ code to 10

Air France flights from Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport.

The Air France-Singapore Airlines agreement is also similar

to that signed by Lufthansa last month in that it sees airlines

from rival alliances working together. Air France

is in the Skyteam alliance, while Singapore is in Star Alliance.

"This kind of partnership is part of our aim to expand our

market position and increase our range of destinations for our

customers all around the world," said Patrick Roux, Senior

Vice-President Alliances at Air France-KLM, in a statement.

The two carriers will also consider expanding the code share

to other airlines within their groups, Air France-KLM said in a

statement.

(Reporting by Victoria Bryan in Berlin; Editing by Sudip

Kar-Gupta)