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China Southern seeks to join global alliance

China Southern Airlines (CSA), signed an agreement at the weekend that lays the groundwork for its membership in the SkyTeam alliance…

China Southern Airlines (CSA), signed an agreement at the weekend that lays the groundwork for its membership in the SkyTeam alliance. CSA is the first Chinese airline to seek membership in an international airline alliance.

CSA may officially join the alliance when it fulfills SkyTeam`s quality standards. It expects that to occur in about two years.

Founded in 2000, SkyTeam is one of the world`s leading global airline alliances. It includes Aeromexico, Air France, Alitalia, CSA Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Korean Air.

Major carriers KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines plan to sign on later this year.

The agreement marks a milestone in China`s civil aviation industry, said Yang Yuanyuan, minister of the General Administration of Civil Aviation. The attempt displays the initiative of the civil aviation industry in international aviation cooperation.

Yang encouraged other Chinese airlines to seek memberships in global aviation alliances to optimize their route networks, improve services and sharpen their competitive edge in the global market.

CSA Chairman Yan Zhiqing said that joining SkyTeam would be a way for the airline to reform further and open wider to the international community. It is also an effective way to strengthen its international cooperation.

As a member of the alliance, CSA will be able to expand and optimize its global route network, diversify its marketing and sales channels and enhance safety, operational, management and service levels.

It signed the nation`s first-ever code-sharing pact with Delta Air Lines in 1997, and hooked up with Air France in January to launch the Guangzhou-Paris service under a code-share arrangement.

The company initiated a code-sharing arrangement with Korean Air in August; and it has joined forces with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in both passenger and cargo services.

CSA`s inclusion in the alliance means that its passengers will benefit from the mileage awards on any SkyTeam-operated flight, as well as access to 340 member lounges globally, around 8,000 daily flights to more than 500 destinations worldwide, more fare options and one check-in process for multi-leg flights.

Other alliance members believe that CSA`s participation will further facilitate their flight arrangements to China, allowing them to offer passengers greater access and more choices. The airline`s inclusion will also better position SkyTeam members to tap the burgeoning China aviation market.

China`s airline companies carried 55 million passenger/times in the first half of this year, up 30 percent from a year ago.

Despite the impact of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003, domestic airlines carried 87.6 million passenger/times in that year and handled 2.2 million tons of freight, up 1.9 percent and 8.4 percent, respectively, from 2002.

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