The integration of China Northern Airlines and Xinjiang Airlines into the operations of giant China Southern Airlines has taken a major step forward, with the two carriers now operating all domestic services under the China Southern name.

Guangzhou-based China Southern said early in January that China Northern and Xinjiang had begun using its flight code - CZ - for all their domestic flights. The changes will be applied to international flights from 30 March.

The move marks another step in the practical integration of all three carriers into the China Southern family, says the airline. In October China's state council approved the takeovers from other state bodies of China Northern and Xinjiang by China Southern's 65% owner, China Southern Air Holding, as part of a sweeping consolidation exercise involving 10 government-controlled airlines.

The mergers are designed to make the "big three" - Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern - stronger in a market where intense price competition has badly hurt airline finances in recent years.

China Southern is eventually due to take over full ownership of China Northern and Xinjiang from its parent, after which the names of those two airlines will disappear altogether.

All China Northern and Xinjiang aircraft will "gradually be repainted" in China Southern colours, while the frequent-flyer programmes of the two smaller airlines have been integrated into its own large Sky Pearl Club.

Source: Airline Business