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China Southern Airlines, already China’s largest mainland carrier, is looking to move to the top spot in the world over the next three years. And in that attempt, the airline is not looking to join any of the major airline alliances. It recently left SkyTeam and has been rumored to be a candidate for OneWorld before 2021, according to a report by the South China Morning Post.

The airline is looking to build agreements with individual airlines, which will allow it much more flexibility in how the airline operates. Wu Guoxiang, senior vice president for International Corporate Relations, told SCMP, “I think it is important to build bilateral cooperation with every carrier that we want, for us to grow, we are the largest carrier in Asia.” Guoxiang went on to say, “In three to five years we will be the largest in the world. We need the flexibility to cooperate the way we want.”

After its departure from SkyTeam, it would seem the airline is looking to forge ahead with its plans to continue its growth, but on its own terms.

The aviation industry is seeing booming growth in Asia with no slow down in sight. By most metrics, including the ones that TPG uses to rank the largest airlines, American Airlines (which happens to own a 2.76% stake in China Southern) is currently the world’s largest airline. China Southern in currently ranked number six, but with the expected continued growth in air travel in Asia, the airline’s target of being the biggest in the world in the next three to five years is certainly not out of reach.

China Southern isn’t the only airline taking notice of the boom in travel in Asia. US-based carriers are looking to increase their presence in the region as well. Recently, American, Delta, Hawaiian and United all got tentative approval for slots at Tokyo-Haneda, giving passengers even more options for travel to and from Asia.

The growth in the region isn’t just limited to Japan. The new airport currently being built in Beijing is slated to open later in the year and will be the world’s largest single terminal airport.

Making the move to the top of the pack in size will give China Southern advantages in negotiations with other airlines as it looks to ink agreements outside of an alliance. It remains to be seen just how these agreements will benefit passengers, other than being able to book travel across multiple carriers more easily.

Featured photo by Alberto Riva/TPG

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