China Southern Airlines has stated it will be leaving the SkyTeam alliance with plans to develop its own strategy in 2019.

Among its plans is strengthening its partnership with US-based American Airlines, which spent a $200 million on a minority stake in the Chinese airline.

The Guangzhou-based carrier says its decision is based on the company’s development strategy and to “better align with the new trend of cooperation model” in the global aviation industry.

“The company will explore the possibilities to establish new partnerships with advanced airlines around the world, promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation and provide quality services to passengers around the world.”

The departure of the Guangzhou-based airline from SkyTeam will take into effect January 1, as the airline alliance has stated it will work with the airline in the transition process. SkyTeam will still be represented in China by Shanghai-based China Eastern and Xiamen Airlines. China Southern was the first airline from China to join the airline alliance in 2007.

“Our members will assess in due course the potential implications for oneworld of China Southern’s announcement today that it is to leave SkyTeam,” oneworld said in a statement.

Established in July of 1988, China Southern is the largest of the country’s “Big Three” airlines (along Air China and China Eastern) with the largest airline fleet in Asia. It also happens to be the 6th largest airline in the world by passenger traffic, operating flights from main hubs in Guangzhou and Beijing and other cities in China such as Shanghai, Wuhan, and Shenzhen.

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