American Introducing Frequent Flyer Benefits and Lounge Access With China Southern

With China Southern leaving the SkyTeam alliance next year American Airlines — which owns a $200 million stake in the Chinese carrier — will be expanding its codesharing relationship next year.

Along with that will come reciprocal mileage-earning and redemption and reciprocal lounge access.

By most measures China Southern is the largest Chinese airline. It has hubs in Guangzhou (where it’s based) and Beijing – which American serves from Dallas and Los Angeles – as well as significant operations in Chongqing, Shanghai–Pudong, and Ürümqi.

American currently codeshares on 14 China Southern flights beyond Beijing. That will grow to 19, and they’ll introduce codesharing on Chinese domestic flights out of Shanghai to 8 destinations. In addition American will codeshare on China Southern’s Guangzhou flights from New York JFK, Los Angeles and San Francisco; on their Los Angeles – Shenyang flight; and on Sasn Francisco – Wuhan.

It is absolutely no surprise that China Southern will be getting closer to American Airlines. American took a stake in the carrier. They were basically shoved out of SkyTeam after Delta’s investment in China Eastern. The only question is whether they ultimately join oneworld, and what the growing relationship with China Southern and American means for Cathay Pacific.

No dates have been announced yet as to when we’ll be able to use AAdvantage miles to travel on China Southern. Given American’s strict award routing rules this isn’t going to be a new way to reach Australia, but it’s going to open up a lot more availability to Southeast Asia — flights via Guangzhou especially to places like Bangkok, Singapore and Bali.

Korean Air’s frequent flyer program no longer allows first class redemptions on China Southern. Hopefully American AAdvantage will. However while I wouldn’t recommend the airline for its service their business class seats are good.

China Southern Boeing 787 Business Class, Credit: China Southern

There are also frequent discount business class deals on China Southern, which should be great for earning American Airlines elite status (since they’re likely to be lucrative not just for miles but also elite qualifying dollars).

Ultimately this will be a huge net add for AAdvantage members looking to travel to Asia, unless dominoes fall further and eventually push Cathay Pacific out of oneworld. That would not be a worthwhile tradeoff.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Do we know if they will be a partner with Elite Qualifying benefits or just mileage accrual (ex. Etihad)? I know it would seem in AA’s best interest given their investment but it’s a possibility they don’t align for status building flights. From the press release it doesn’t mention that, unless I missed it.

  2. I disagree, Gary. I flew them in J from YVR to CAN and back last year and found their business-class service to be quite nice.

    Certainly it’s nowhere near the attentiveness of CX or Singapore, but for a Chinese carrier it was very impressive.

    I went in with no expectations, and was pleasantly surprised.

    I enjoyed their hard product on their 787’s as well – but I will say that unless you absolutely MUST look out the window in J, book a center seat so you won’t have to do the “BA step-over” to get up.

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