China Southern To Leave SkyTeam On December 31st 2019

China Southern has announced it will officially be leaving SkyTeam Alliance on the 31st December. The airline initially announced it would not be renewing its current contracts with the group in November of last year. Despite leaving the alliance, it has stated that it will be maintaining all its codeshare deals with SkyTeam partners as well as continuing the existing frequent flyer benefits.

Getty China Southern Airplane takeoff
China Southern will officially complete all transactions with SkyTeam by the new year. Photo: Getty Images

In an official statement regarding the end of the agreement, the Chinese airline said,

“The Company will have completed all transitional work for its withdrawal from SkyTeam Alliance by 31 December 2019 and will officially leave the SkyTeam Alliance on 1 January 2020”.

The statement also highlights that it will maintain its codesharing agreements with SkyTeam members as well as frequent flyer deals. The Airline will be launching its new “CZ Priority” on the 1st January 2020 to replace the existing “Sky Priority”. This means that any gold or silver cardholders at China Southern as well as Elite and Elite Plus members will be unaffected by the transition.

Why is China Southern leaving SkyTeam?

China Southern joined SkyTeam in 2007 as the only mainland Chinese airline. But SkyTeam now has China Eastern on its books and this is undoubtedly part of the reason for China Southern’s announcement of its departure late last year. SkyTeam facilitated good deals between China Eastern and both Delta and KLM. As the original Chinese airline, China Southern was definitely snubbed by other SkyTeam members.

China Eastern
China Eastern’s partnership with Delta was part of the reason China Southern wanted to leave SkyTeam. Photo: Delta

Another reason for the airline’s departure is that China Southern has one of the largest fleets in the world and is looking to become the absolute number one in terms of fleet size. It foresaw more opportunities to grow its fleet with partnerships and deals outside the alliance. It has since concentrated on forging an alliance with American Airlines, signing a frequent flier deal with the airline in March.

In its statement on Tuesday the airline focussed on these new partnerships saying that “the Company has accelerated the expansion of its global “circle of friends” by establishing a bilateral code-share partnership with American Airlines, British Airways, Emirates, Finnair, Japan Airlines, Qantas and Qatar Airways”.

Success or failure?

Although China Southern is maintaining a good relationship with its old SkyTeam alliance, the remaining 19 members of SkyTeam will no doubt be carefully watching if the airline can make a success of itself on its own.

SkyTeam China Airlines
If China Southern makes a success of its new freedom, perhaps other airlines will follow. Photo: SkyTeam

Of course, being a member of SkyTeam brings plenty of perks. Airlines get boosted revenues as passengers can travel with several airlines on one ticket. The alliance also facilitates transfers between airlines and passengers can enter lounges all over the world encouraging passengers to book with the alliance rather than with competitors.

With China Southern looking to become the largest fleet in the world, its success outside the alliance may encourage other airlines to look at their own membership. Although SkyTeam offers many benefits for airlines, there are, of course, associated costs. If China Southern is successful in becoming the largest fleet in the world, perhaps other airlines will follow their lead.

What do you think of China Southern finally leaving SkyTeam? Do you think others will follow their lead if they are successful? Let us know in the comments below.