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China Southern is leaving the SkyTeam airline alliance,
allowing its contract to lapse when it comes up for renewal on Jan. 1. The
carrier and the alliance, of which Delta also is a member, will "work
together to ensure a seamless transition" throughout 2019, according to
SkyTeam. The move is not surprising, given the partnerships that China's
largest carriers have been building over the past few years.
Of China's three largest carriers, China Southern and China
Eastern are in SkyTeam while Air China is a part of Star Alliance, of which
United is a member. In 2015, Delta announced a
$450 million investment in
China Eastern. China Southern, meanwhile, has been cozying up to Oneworld
alliance members, including American Airlines. American announced a
$200 million investment in
the carrier in 2017, and China Southern also has been in talks with British
Airways, already a codeshare partner, about joint-venture possibilities. China
Southern said it will build a global network outside SkyTeam but has not
announced any plans to join Oneworld.
China Southern also has JV agreements with SkyTeam member
Air France-KLM on routes between Beijing and Amsterdam and between Guangzhou
and Paris. This summer, Air France-KLM announced it will merge those JVs and
its JV with Xiamen Airlines into a single joint venture. Xiamen is a subsidiary
of China Southern and remains a SkyTeam member.