The planned withdrawal of China Southern Airlines, the largest airline by fleet size in Asia, from the SkyTeam airline alliance signifies less close-knit alliances and more cross-alliance cooperation, analysts said.
Star Alliance, SkyTeam and Oneworld are the three largest global airline alliances. However, cross-alliance investment and cooperation have been on the rise in the past few years.
China Southern signed an agreement last year to sell a minority stake to American Airlines Group, which belongs to Oneworld.
China Eastern Airlines, a SkyTeam member, announced in August it will jointly operate more flights with Japan Airlines, which is a Oneworld member.
"The independent operation of airlines is becoming a new trend. China Southern has a huge market in China, and it can easily find cooperation partners. It would be more flexible for it to cooperate with different airlines and seek cross-alliance cooperation, without being tied to any particular alliance," said Zou Jianjun, a professor at the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China.
Zou said it was unlikely that China Southern would join Oneworld, as joining an alliance is not an essential measure for China Southern to carry out cooperation.
The withdrawal of China Southern from SkyTeam is aimed at increasing its international operations while avoiding competition with China Eastern in international flights within the alliance, said Xu Shuo, a researcher with Qianzhan Industry Research Institute.
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