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China Southern, Asia’s biggest carrier, is to exit the SkyTeam airline alliance founded by Air France and Delta, both the company and the grouping announced on Thursday.
The departure will take effect from January 1 and the Guangzhou-based airline ‘will explore the possibilities to establish new partnerships with advanced airlines around the world,’ China Southern said in a statement.
China Southern joined the SkyTeam alliance in November 2007 as the first airline from continental China. 
Analysts noted that American Airlines – which belongs to the rival Oneworld alliance – had become more closely linked to China Southern, in which it took a 2.68 percent stake in 2017 for $200 million. 
The tie-up will allow American to tap into the Chinese market, while boosting China Southern’s ambitions of raising its global profile.
China is now the world’s second-largest aviation market, and increasing demand for air travel among its booming middle class is expected to ultimately push it past the United States.