China Southern to leave SkyTeam.

I don’t tend to write much about SkyTeam carriers – being London based they don’t quite have the presence that Oneworld (with British Airways and American Airlines) and Star Alliance (with Terminal 2).

That said, Terminal 4 at Heathrow is almost the SkyTeam terminal and there have been mutterings for years about Virgin Atlantic finally joining the alliance given that Delta now own 49% of the airline, with Air France and KLM owning 30%.

For those people in the regions of the UK, KLM have always been a big player, stemming from their purchase of what was Air UK back in the late 1990s.  KLM flies to over twice the number of regional airports than British Airways does, enabling easy connections from the regions, via Schipol, to the world.

So for committed SkyTeam flyers, it’s been announced that China Southern, based in Guangzhou, will not be renewing their SkyTeam membership from the 1st January 2019.  They said in a statement:

“The board of directors (the “Board”) of the Company wishes to inform its shareholders and potential investors that, based on the needs of the Company’s development strategy and to better align with the new trend of cooperation model in the global aviation industry, the Company decided not to renew its SkyTeam Membership Agreement from 1 January 2019 and will complete the transition arrangements in 2019. During the transition period, the Company will work closely with SkyTeam on a cooperative process to ensure a sound transition for customers and partners. 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’s not immediately clear what this means for flyers that want to earn or redeem miles in other SkyTeam programmes.  They’re not a partner of Virgin Atlantic, but Delta SkyMiles and Air France / KLM Flying Blue customers will be affected.

My advice would be that if you’re looking to earn or burn miles with flights on China Southern, do so before the end of this year.  I suspect a withdrawal date will be set at some point within the next twelve months so you could get caught out.

The other interesting question is what’s next for China Southern.  There have been a number of rumours that they’re looking to join oneworld.  However given their main hub is very close to Hong Kong, I suspect that Cathay Pacific would have a few things to say about it.  Although they’re rumoured to be unhappy about oneworld as well, so who knows.

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