China Southern to leave SkyTeam Alliance

China Southern Airlines has today announced that it will not be renewing its membership of the SkyTeam airline alliance from 1st January 2019.

Shift in focus

Reuters reports that China’s biggest airline wants to work on its own development strategy. SkyTeam is currently made up of 20 full member airlines, making it the second largest airline alliance after Star Alliance, which has 27. China Southern joined SkyTeam in 2007. Qiu Dapeng, a spokesperson for China Southern Airlines’ subsidiary Xiamen Airlines has said that Xiamen will remain a member of SkyTeam at this time.

In 2017, American Airlines Group purchased a $200 million stake in China Southern. The American airline is a member of Oneworld, which raises question as to whether China Southern will potentially join Oneworld in the future.

The Chinese carrier has a fleet of 568 passenger and 14 cargo aircraft and is the largest airline in China.

Alliance dynamic

Airline Alliances allow passengers with an airline’s mileage program to use and share facilities with other member airlines. For example, a member of China Southern’s ‘Sky Pearl Club’ frequent flier program, can earn points by travelling with other member airlines, and use their lounges, priority boarding systems and other features.

There is to be a one year transition period as the airline leaves SkyTeam. China Southern is yet to confirm how and when changes to customers will take effect.

China Eastern Airlines, China’s second largest carrier and a competitor of China Southern, is also a member of SkyTeam. Competition is a large driving force in business, and therefore this move could change the dynamic between the two Chinese giants.