China Southern 2018: Leaving SkyTeam Alliance becomes an option, but where to next?

The Guangzhou based airline has many accomplishments: it is Asia’s largest airline, the sixth group in the world and first outside the western hemisphere to transport over 100 million passengers a year, and it has rapidly grown while pivoting to international markets.

China Southern’s foundation remains strong, with a healthy outlook, but the airline is feeling a little lonely after developments in its SkyTeam Alliance.

First, Delta invested in China Eastern, and then in summer 2017 China Eastern and Delta invested in Air France-KLM and strengthened their partnerships. This was a wide-ranging alliance within SkyTeam that unmistakably excluded China Southern.

There may well be a sense China Southern has been relegated in status – which could prompt China Southern may feel it has to respond to by leaving the SkyTeam Alliance. This is probably more a reflection of the greater global focus on northern China gateways, but is nonetheless unwelcome.

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