American Airlines purchased a stake in China Southern. The Chinese carrier will be leaving SkyTeam this year.
Several months ago they announced that frequent flyer benefits would be coming. Travel on China Southern now earns American AAdvantage redeemable miles (but elite qualifying miles only in American Airlines codeshares) and AAdvantage miles can be used for award travel on China Southern.
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. So this is a win for American AAdvantage members, but there are risks.
American will offer elite qualifying miles only if you book an American-marketed codeshare. However flying China Southern (on a China Southern-coded flight) will earn redeemable miles as follows:
|Cabin||Fare class||Base miles||Cabin bonus|
|Economy||P, B, M, H, K||50%|
|Economy||U, A, L, E, Q||25%|
China Southern offers several US flights:
- Guangzhou–Los Angeles
- Guangzhou–New York JFK
- Wuhan–San Francisco
- Guangzhou–San Francisco
- Wuhan–New York JFK
Since we do not yet know of any ‘third region rule exceptions’ that means flights from the US will always be to ‘Asia 2’ which includes China. Awards cost 37,500 miles in economy and 70,000 miles in business class each way. Connections beyond Asia such as to Australia would require a separate award.
Flights within Asia are a pretty good value in business class. Flying an allowable routing within most of Asia (Asia 2) is 17,500 miles each way in economy and 22,500 miles in business.
China Southern Boeing 787 Business Class, Credit: China Southern
Awards are not yet bookable on the American Airlines website. You can search for China Southern award space at Delta.com (prone to phantom availability), AirFrance.us, and the Alitalia website as well. You can also search using Expertflyer.
China Southern’s award buckets are:
- First – F
- Business – O
- Premium Economy S
- Economy X
Only economy and business class awards are currently available to AAdvantage members.
No First Class Awards
Only China Southern economy and business class awards are available. American says “award travel in First won’t be available initially” so hopefully it follows in the near future.
American and China Southern won’t start offering reciprocal lounge access until next year. And the benefit will only extend to selected lounges across each carrier’s network at this point.
Will American Lose Other Partners?
Adding China Southern is only a win if it doesn’t come at the expense of other partners. American dropped key elements of its relationship with Alaska Airlines, and lost partners Jet Airways and Gulf Air. They have severed codesharing relationships with Qatar and Etihad, and there have been rumors about the future of earn and burn with both as well.
There’s never been a definitive statement of what the future of oneworld looks like, we know that China Southern will not be joining for now, it’s unclear what Cathay Pacific’s view on such a move would be. I wouldn’t trade Cathay for China Southern, for instance.
Ultimately American AAdvantage miles are valuable because of the program’s partnerships, and not because of 18 hour domestic coach connecting itineraries. For now I’m cautiously optimistic.