Following the recent addition of Xiamen Airlines to Skyteam, Shenzhen Airlines China’s fifth largest carrier has joined the Star Alliance after 16 months of planning. Shenzen is based in the city of the same name, 1,940km from Beijing. The airline links 70 cities domestically and internationally. In 2010, the airline was involved in a scandal when it was found that about one hundred of its pilots had falsified their flying qualifications and experience. There is much speculation, as to whether all of these false pilots were successfully removed from the company.
Almost all of China’s largest airlines are now locked into either Skyteam or Star Alliance. In contrast with the key Middle Eastern Airlines (Ethihad, Emirates and Qatar), the airlines of China, have been very eager to be seen as part of the world’s global networks. Once China and the Middle East are sown up, the direction of the alliance groupings will be pretty much set.
China’s main airlines in order of size, with Skytrax rating and link to Alliance, are:
- China Southern -Skytrax: 4 star- SkyTeam
- China Eastern -Skytrax: 3 star – SkyTeam
- Air China Skytrax: 4 star -Star Alliance
- Hainan Airlines -Skytrax: 5 star – One World possibility?
- Shenzhen Airlines -Skytrax: 3 star – Star Alliance
- Xiamen Airlines – Skytrax: No Rating- SkyTeam
The main gap is the lack of One World connectivity by a mainland China carrier. One World founding member Cathay Pacific is Hong Kong based. Its sister airline Dragonair operates from Hong Kong to 17 destinations across China. Hainan Airlines, widely tipped to be a leading contendor for One World membership, currently code share with One World’s American and Air Berlin. The fly in the ointment, is that Hainan’s Hong Kong Airlines subsidiary competes heavily against Cathay. As a result, I wonder how keen Cathay Pacific would be to sponsor Hainan? Watch this space!