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Delta frequent flyers are about to lose a SkyTeam partner in China, which means fewer miles and codeshare benefits. Those who fly American Airlines and other Oneworld partners, however, may soon gain one.

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China Southern, the biggest carrier by both passenger volume and revenue in China, plans to leave the SkyTeam airline alliance in 2019. This could dramatically affect the way that Delta passengers in the United States earn and burn loyalty points in the region — but potentially have a positive impact for whomever China Southern eventually teams up with next.

On paper, the airline says that it’s leaving SkyTeam to “develop its own strategy,” which could mean that it’s heading off on its own to pursue ad hoc partnerships with whichever operator makes sense. Already, Emirates and Aer Lingus, two major carriers in the Middle East and Europe respectively, have proven the viability of this path.

What’s more likely, however, is that China Southern is leaving to pursue a relationship with Oneworld, the alliance in which both American Airlines and British Airways participate. Indeed, American already has a $200 million stake in the Chinese carrier while British Airways is working on an updated code-share agreement.

If the switch actually happens, Delta passengers in the United States will have one less airline to work with in the Asia region (though China Airlines and China Eastern are still in play) while American passengers will finally have a Oneworld alternative to Cathay Pacific. By 2019, though, the deck will surely be shuffled again.

— Grant Martin, Business of Loyalty Editor

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Skift Business of Loyalty Editor Grant Martin [[email protected]] curates the Skift Business of Loyalty newsletter. Skift emails the newsletter every Monday.

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Tags: china southern, loyalty, skyteam

Photo credit: China Southern aircraft in Frankfurt, Germany, on May 8, 2018 294987 / 294987

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