Earlier today China Southern Airlines officially joined SkyTeam, making it the first mainland Chinese carrier to join the airline grouping.

“Today China Southern officially became the 11th full member of SkyTeam, making the alliance the first to welcome a carrier from the mainland of China,” SkyTeam says in a statement.

The official welcoming ceremony was held at China’s Great Hall of the People and the VIPs in attendance included China State Council vice premier Zeng Peiyan, China Southern chairman Liu Shaoyong, Civil Aviation Administration of China minister Yang Yuanyuan, and SkyTeam governing board chairman Leo van Wijk.

Having China Southern in SkyTeam means the airline grouping adds Beijing and Guangzhou to its hub network and allows the grouping greater access to China, says SkyTeam.

China Southern chairman Liu Shaoyong says in the statement being in SkyTeam will allow the carrier to “better serve our customers, particularly as the 2008 Beijing Olympics approaches.”

Oneworld alliance has no mainland Chinese carriers per se but it has Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific Airways and next month Air China and Shanghai Airlines will officially join Star Alliance.

Other SkyTeam alliance carriers include: Air France, Delta Air Lines and Korean Air.

Source: FlightGlobal.com