China Southern to leave SkyTeam in January 2019

By David Flynn, November 15 2018
China Southern to leave SkyTeam in January 2019

China Southern is quitting the SkyTeam alliance, in a move which robs the alliance of its largest Chinese partner and is sure to encourage rumours that the Guangzhou-based airline could join Oneworld.

A media statement issued by SkyTeam said "China Southern’s decision reflects its strategic development, the changing trends of the global aviation industry and the evolution of alliances."

"China Southern has decided not to renew its contract with SkyTeam, the global airline alliance, as of 1 January 2019," the alliance said.

"SkyTeam and China Southern have agreed to work closely together to ensure a seamless transition for all customers and partners. That process will run throughout 2019 and will complete by the year-end."

This process will include managing the impact of earning and using frequent flyer miles and airport lounge access.

China Southern said in a statement that it will seek partners outside of the alliance to build up a global network.

SkyTeam's remaining airlines in mainland China are Shanghai-based China Eastern and ther smaller Xiamen Airlines; the alliance also counts Taiwan's China Airlines as a member.

Beijing-based Air China belongs to the Star Alliance and has a stake in Cathay Pacific, a Oneworld member.

China Southern joined SkyTeam in 2007 and has direct flights to its Guangzhou hub from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. In addition to bringing business travellers into the heart of China's Pearl River Delta manufacturing region, the airline also offers onwards connections across Europe and the UK. 

In the past two years, China Southern has increasingly branched out to non-SkyTeam members for partnerships. In addition to the minority stake sold to American Air, it’s in talks to upgrade its code-share agreement with British Airways into a joint venture. Both BA and American are members of the Oneworld family.

Meanwhile, domestic rival China Eastern has been seeking closer ties with other SkyTeam members including Delta Air Lines and Air France/KLM through mutual stake investments, leaving China Southern in an awkward situation within the alliance.

Additional material by Bloomberg


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Aug 2017

Total posts 117

Can’t imagine CX will be too impressed if they do join OW.


24 Jan 2016

Total posts 25

Not sure how Cathay are going to feel about a huge rival with their base so close to HKG joining OW? If CZ do join OW that may prompt CX to leave the alliance and join Star? Interesting times ahead in 2019, that's for sure.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Jan 2018

Total posts 126

I can picture this being a problem if they want to join another alliance as SQ/CA wouldn’t be happy, and CX would be in the same boat. MU and QF would have challenges with their alliance and partnership. It’s unlikely and we can just speculate. But time will tell.


30 Jul 2015

Total posts 107

Really? Join Star will ALL the other Asian carriers!!


30 Jul 2015

Total posts 107

CZ and CX could exist comfortably side by side...and also reap benefits if CX looks at it the right way. Will take CZ awhile to catch up to CX's service standards anyway.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 322

CX would increasingly likely use their veto to block CZ's entry into Oneworld if any of the Oneworld carriers try to sponsor CZ's entry.

Saying that, I'm tipping CZ would probably remain on the outer and seek more JVs with Oneworld and Star Alliance members.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Jun 2015

Total posts 71

Interesting QF have partnerships with both CZ and MU. Hedging their bets perhaps

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

Think just reflects connections from HKG and PVG, particularly given China's loose one airline per route policy.

Believe QF just has codeshares with CZ, a little closer with MU

29 Aug 2014

Total posts 21

Perhaps CX can be threatened with expulsion?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2017

Total posts 50

cx will just taken over by ca and everyone is happy.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Oct 2018

Total posts 6

CX is no longer a premium airlines, all they know is cutting cost and cutting cost... CZ exiting ST is a good thing as MU is increasingly making CZ uncomfortable. CZ can utilise this opportunity to better themselves. Yet it’s a government owned corp, thus no need to be too optimistic about it.

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

11 Jun 2018

Total posts 25

Mind asking CX for further comment? Interested to see how they will response at this stage. With the rumor that QR is leaving ow, I really don’t want to lose another premium and flagship airline of OW.

China Airlines - Dynasty Flyer

22 Sep 2012

Total posts 74

Also people are overlooking the fact that Shenzhen airport is also a major hub for cz and it is equally the largest carrier with Shenzhen airlines (Star Alliance). CZ would definately not join Star Alliance as Air China's takeover of Shenzhen airlines was to build its own network from Southern China. Also with China Southern at Shenzhen airport gradually increasing its long haul network and also using Shenzhen as a transit point to chinese destinations from outside China, I can only think year by year CX will suffer more from CZ being in the same . If it is true that CX has a veto vote, for CX's survival they should use the veto as this could otherwise send CX into bankrupcy. So I see it is quite likely CZ will not join and will just be free to make agreements with select airlines. Skyteam geographically was the only alliance that made sense. Yes Xiamen and Eastern are in China but they are Still 1000kms or 2000kms away from their biggest hub. Oneworld competitor CX is 150 or even just 30kms away (if You consider adding szx).

And as I said above Star Alliance even less sense though both are nearly as bad as each other.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2015

Total posts 219

Much speculation on CZ but I do hope that CX don't leave OW as travelling through HK and use of those CX lounges along with the QF lounge there is one of travelling life's pleasures.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2011

Total posts 232

They sounds like a prime candidate for OneWorld Connect if 'building their own network of partners' is what they want to do.


Air China - Phoenix Miles

20 Dec 2012

Total posts 105

Any chance CZ would merge with MU or CA?

01 Sep 2015

Total posts 17

@kk cn government says no...


British Airways - Executive Club

24 Jan 2012

Total posts 74

I feel that a breakaway from a group of allies created for economical benefit needs a catchy name. CZxit???

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