Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Shanghai/Singapore — China Southern Airlines says  it will leave the SkyTeam airline alliance on January 1 2019 to meet the needs of the company’s own development strategy.

SkyTeam is one of the world’s three major airline alliances and had two big Chinese carriers, China Southern and rival China Eastern Airlines, as members, which is unusual given that they operate in the same market.

The alliances, which also include Star Alliance and Oneworld, provide reciprocal benefits for passengers such as lounge usage and frequent flyer points.

China Southern, the country’s largest airline by passenger numbers, said in a statement on Thursday that the SkyTeam alliance respected the firm’s decision to not renew its membership.

SkyTeam said it would work with China Southern to ensure a seamless transition for all customers and partners. That process will run throughout 2019 and will complete by the year-end.

China Southern said in a separate statement posted to the Shanghai stock exchange that it did not expect the move to have a significant impact on its operations.

Xiamen Airlines, a subsidiary of China Southern that is also a Skyteam member, has no plans to quit the alliance, Xiamen spokesman Qiu Dapeng said.

Among the other members of SkyTeam are Delta Air Lines and Air France KLM. Both have close partnerships with China Eastern.

Oneworld member American Airlines spent $200m in 2017 buying a stake in China Southern.