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The SkyTeam alliance is losing one of its member airlines. Effective Jan. 1, 2019, China Southern will leave the alliance, instead choosing to meet the needs of its own development strategy.

According to a source at the airline and reported by Reuters, the airline is leaving because it believes it’s too expensive to be a member of the alliance, relative to the benefits it gets in return for being a member. The source added that the airline will consider joining the Oneworld alliance, but it has not yet made a decision. China Southern is the largest airline in China by passenger numbers.

Cathay Pacific, the Hong Kong-based carrier that’s a founding member of the Oneworld alliance, has the right to veto the entrance of a new member airline from the greater China region, said two sources familiar with the matter. China Southern, which is based on the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou (CAN), competes directly against Cathay for traffic in the region. The two cities are located just 84 miles apart.

China Southern said in a statement to the Shanghai stock exchange that it did not expect its exit from SkyTeam to significantly impact operations. SkyTeam said that it’s working with China Southern to ensure a seamless transition for both other members and for customers. The process will be completed by the end of 2019.

Remaining SkyTeam members after China Southern’s departure include: Aeroflot, Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeromexico, AirEuropa, Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, Czech Airlines, Delta, Garuda Indonesia, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Middle East Airlines, Saudia, Tarom, Vietnam Airlines and Xiamen Air.

Xiamen Air, which is a subsidiary of China Southern, said that it has no plans to leave the group.

At this point, it remains unclear what China Southern’s exit from SkyTeam will mean for flyers — especially in the near term. Because there are strong ties between SkyTeam carriers, such as reciprocal benefits, codesharing, ticketing and more, there is plenty to be worked out between the two groups.

Since the official exit won’t take place until Jan. 1, 2019, if you have travel booked with China Southern for the remainder of 2018, there should be no impact on your flight. In addition, there’s the possibility that no changes to earning miles and elite status credits could take place until the end of 2019. Though those details remain unseen.

China Southern’s exit from the SkyTeam alliance comes on the heels of Qatar Airways threatening to leave the Oneworld alliance. The airline’s CEO Akbar Al Baker has threatened three times since October to leave the alliance because other member airlines are not playing fair.

China Southern flies nonstop to New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO).

Featured image by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy.

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