Guangzhou-based China Southern will exit the SkyTeam alliance from next year. The airline announced last Thursday that it will not renew its SkyTeam membership from 1 January 2019. The move has fuelled speculation that China Southern could join Qantas in the Oneworld alliance.
For most Australians, China Southern leaving SkyTeam is no great loss. Very few Australian frequent flyers are members of a SkyTeam frequent flyer program, so China Sothern’s withdrawal from the alliance will have a minimal impact on most Australian travellers.
Even after China Southern leaves SkyTeam, the alliance will continue to enjoy a strong presence in mainland China. China Eastern and Xiamen Air are also SkyTeam members, as is Taiwan-based China Airlines. Other SkyTeam airlines based in Asia include Korean Air, Vietnam Airlines and Garuda Indonesia. All of these airlines fly to Australia.
The following airlines currently make up the SkyTeam alliance:
In the short term, it appears China Southern may not be part of any alliance. This means Australians flying with China Southern from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Cairns or Perth to Guangzhou – or from Sydney or Melbourne to Shenzhen – will have no choice but to earn miles with the China Southern Sky Pearl Club program.
However, China Southern leaving SkyTeam could create an opportunity for the airline to join Oneworld. There were rumours that China Southern could be looking to join Oneworld around a year ago. If this did happen, it would be great for Australian travellers who would be able to earn and redeem Qantas points for China Southern flights. China Southern has great award availability to Asia, Europe and North America.
Qantas Frequent Flyer members can already earn and redeem Qantas points with SkyTeam’s China Eastern. Thanks to the joint venture between Qantas and Shanghai-based China Eastern, Qantas status also comes with various perks on China Eastern.
Oneworld’s Cathay Pacific would be the biggest loser if China Southern was to join Oneworld. There are currently no Oneworld airlines based in mainland China. Cathay Pacific – which offers connections to most major Chinese cities through its Hong Kong hub – would like to keep it that way. As a founding member of the Oneworld alliance, Cathay Pacific would have the right to veto China Southern joining Oneworld. But for now, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: China Southern is leaving SkyTeam