Updated to include comment from American Airlines
China Southern has announced that it will leave the SkyTeam alliance next year as it pursues new partnerships with carriers around the world.
In disclosures to the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges, the carrier says it will not renew its SkyTeam membership from 1 January 2019, and that it will complete the transition arrangements within the year.
The Guangzhou-based carrier says its decision is based on the company’s development strategy and to “better align with the new trend of cooperation model” in the global aviation industry.
“The company will explore the possibilities to establish new partnerships with advanced airlines around the world, promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation and provide quality services to passengers around the world.”
It adds that it will work closely with SkyTeam to ensure a sound transition for its customers and partners, and that it does not expect the move to have any impact on its business operations.
“China Southern’s decision reflects its strategic development, the changing trends of the global aviation industry and the evolution of alliances," says SkyTeam.
The alliance's chief executive Kristin Colvile adds: “Network has always been the foundation of SkyTeam. Our new value proposition retains that strong integrated network and combines it with our continued focus on improving customer experience through technology. China Southern has been a valued member of SkyTeam. We respect its decision and wish it well.”
The airline's move follows reports in 2017 that China Southern had held internal discussions about possibly leaving SkyTeam, around the same time that Oneworld carrier American Airlines closed a $200 million investment for a 2.68% stake in the Chinese carrier that August. That has seen the two carriers keep in close contact and implement codeshare arrangements on each others' flights.
“China Southern is a terrific partner to American and we commend its innovative leadership team. We are very pleased with the progress we have made so far in our newly formed relationship, including the launch of a reciprocal codeshare agreement earlier this year," says American. "This news presents a great opportunity for us to continue to expand our relationship with the largest airline in China. With the opening of Beijing Daxing International Airport in 2019 and the ability to cooperate fully with China Southern, we are excited about our future in the Chinese market.”
China Southern has also since signed a codeshare agreement with Oneworld’s British Airways, while it also has a codeshare relationship with Qantas.
Sources had indicated at the time that there was a perception that it had been sidelined after Delta Air Lines invested $450 million into fellow SkyTeam carrier China Eastern Airlines in September 2015.