SkyTeam extends its lead in China – Xiamen Airlines key for business travelers

China’s Xiamen Airlines has joined SkyTeam.

There are two general business travelers to China:

  1. Consultants, bankers, etc that parachute in to the major cities.
  2. Importers, manufacturers and others doing gritty on the ground business in China’s manufacturing hubs, the major stretch running along the southeast coast down from Shanghai through Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces.

Xiamen Airlines is known to those in category 2, with its hubs in Xiamen, Fuzhou and Hangzhou.

With China Eastern in Shanghai (plus some benefits with Shanghai Airlines as part of China Eastern) and China Southern in Guangzhou, SkyTeam has locked up the critical commercial regions in China, and the strongest China network to East, Central and Southeast Asia.

For Delta flyers, award availability does actually exist on China Eastern and China Southern, though taxes on international flights can sometimes sting.

Star Alliance has Air China, which rivals China Eastern and China Southern, and is based in Beijing, and strong in the north and central regions of China. Air China has partnerships with regional airlines like Shandong Airlines and Shenzhen Airlines. My experience is that Star Alliance benefits rarely apply on those carriers, though China is all about exceptions.

OneWorld serves China through Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific/DragonAir. Except for those based in Hong Kong, that is a costly hub and too much hassle for China visas and such (see comment 5) , to be useful for frequent China travel beyond that quick parachute into a major city.

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  • Cristina

    HKG allow visa free entrance to tons of major countries, including the US. HKG also doesnt require a valid visa for pure transit passengers. What visa hassle are you referring to ?

  • JS

    Any thoughts on Hainan Air? I’d love to see them join Oneworld so we have better domestic coverage in China.

  • Sichuan Airlines is part-owned by China Southern and does not have any partnerships with Air China. Shenzhen should become a full Star Alliance member soon.

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  • @Cristina – I should have been clear that I was referring to China visas, not Hong Kong. If, say sticking with Cathay and flying Beijing to Guangzhou via Hong Kong you would have to stamp out of China and then back in. It is not always feasible to get multiple-entry China visas, so this could use up a double-entry or cause a very bad day with a single-entry. A friend of mine once got stuck in Hong Kong on something similar.

  • @Adrian – thanks, my mistake, my most recent memory of flying Sichuan Air was they had a Shared check-in counter with Shandong Air, that was some time ago and I forget which airport, and I wrongly had in my head that they are with Air China. I have edited the above.

  • @JS – I have heard good things about Hainan Air’s Seattle-Beijing service. For China domestic flights they are quite similar to the other Chinese airlines, each person has their favorites but the difference are generally small. Their domestic mini-hub in Beijing is one of the easiest in China for connections. I flew them a lot when I was based in Tianjin, I had bad luck with delays, and though hard to quantify, it does seem the big 3 carriers get preferential treatment for air traffic control ahead of the smaller/regional/private airlines.