Jan 31, 2013

China Southern tries hard, maybe too hard, in Australia

What China Southern offers Australian travellers to Europe is insignificant beside the main game, which is to corner as much of the surging China-Australia market as it can.

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

How China Southern turned up in Cairns yesterday, PR image

China Southern has sprung to life in the Australian market in the last year, but sometimes things don’t go quite as well as they could have.

Yesterday it lost considerable PR impact in landing its first ever flight in Cairns by turning up in Sky Team livery, not the distinctive and imposing China Southern branding.

Sky Team is a global marketing alliance. Which is irrelevant in Australia, indeed global alliances are of less and less significance in general and Australia in particular, as the major airlines pursue joint ventures and business partnerships that involve ‘sleeping’ with what ever partner works best for whichever routes.

And how China Southern should have appeared in Cairns, as a China aviation giant: Wikipedia Commons

Today China Southern announced flat beds in business class and higher quality in flight video screens throughout in its A330-200 services on more of its flights between Australian cities and Guangzhou from 1 April.

But it also spruiked food which would be a ‘fusion’ between western and Chinese cuisine. No, no, no. Most if not all Australians who travel to China are keen to eat nothing but food from China’s rich and regionally distinctive cuisines. The last thing a China airline should do is ‘dilute’ the country’s culinary experiences. Please offer us the real thing, and nothing but.

What China Southern is setting out to do in this country can bring valuable new sources of business and leisure travellers from China to Australia.  It has made an impressive investment in airliners and people to do this, and it promises to continue to link China to Australia on a scale befitting the Asian Century.

The efforts it is making to compete for kangaroo route travellers by connecting Australians to Europe via Guangzhou are interesting. But they are also a side show. The most interesting thing about the surging demand for travel to the rest of the world from China is what its airlines like China Southern are bringing to Australia, which is a deep new source of tourists, and the economic activity associated with them.

And that means that sooner than later, China Southern, which now claims to be the world’s third largest airline, will need a domestic partner. Will it be Virgin Australia or Qantas?

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13 thoughts on “China Southern tries hard, maybe too hard, in Australia

  1. patrick kilby

    Unless there is a radical shift (which is not unheard of) QANTAS’s China’s Partner is China Eastern and a big incentive would be requrid for it to moveand Shanghai is a better place to start from.

  2. Bear

    Ben, I may be a picky old planespotter, but to my tastes the generic Skyteam “look” is far preferable – and more importantly gives a more contemporary look – than China Southern’s very old-school appearance. It could also have been a conscious decision to send that airframe in order to co-promote the Skyteam alliance which has as good as zero recognition in Australia.

    The 3 formal alliances may be reaching their use-by dates, but they still work well from a passenger’s perspective. Sure… VA’s agreement with DL worked well for me last week between Sydney and Vegas via LAX in terms of all the perks promised, but from what I’ve heard, that would not have been the case in DL’s ports less frequented by Australians. Nor could I use points to upgrade. These are the benefits of the alliances for the consumers.

  3. Roger

    I think CZ is offering both western and Chinese cuisine. Which is a good thing. I don’t think this dilutes the experience but gives people a choice. Or have you some inside knowledge to show otherwise?

  4. Geoff

    Bear – you might be right but I saw the aircraft land in Brisbane but could not see the logo clearly (I was driving). Hence my “I wonder who that belongs to” thought. I agree with Ben, a silly idea when you are trying to market China Southern.

  5. ltfisher

    Meanwhile on the opposite side of the continent CZ is ignoring livery and appealing to the bottom line ie cheap as hell seats to Europe presumably as they reckon not too many Chinese want to travel to Perth but lotsa WA types want to travel somewhere else. That’s why so many go to Bali.

  6. keesje

    And that means that sooner than later, China Southern, which now claims to be the world’s third largest airline, will need a domestic partner. Will it be Virgin Australia or Qantas?

    Most likely Virgin Australia because of its codeshares / ownership via Delta Airlines.

  7. Aidan Stanger

    What exactly would CZ gain from having a domestic partner?

  8. TT

    I don’t see why China Southern need a partner in Australia. With their planes flying to all major cities in Australia, other than Canberra and Adelaide (they do have charter flights to Adelaide this month!), they are a bit like Cathay Pacific where they reach where the destination they want to be other than Canberra.

    So I would like all they need to decide is to who they want to code-share flights to and from CBR, and when to start regular flights to ADL. (I wish ADL flights would be sooner rather than later!)

  9. Ben Sandilands


    Was quoting the media releases, which insisted that the airline was offering a ‘fusion’ of western and Chinese cuisines.

    I think China Southern’s activities here are very welcome, and a big plus for China-Australia travel, but the media messaging less than optimal.

  10. johnb78

    Not sure I agree, Ben. People who are going to China will fly China Southern happily, but people who are flying kangaroo will be sceptical that a mainland Chinese airline can live up to western/’developed Asian’ standards.

    Pointing out that you won’t be served fried bugs, and highlighting their membership of a western-led alliance with reasonably strict standards (except for Air France, obviously), will help win kangaroo passengers from Qantas, Singapore and the Middle Easterners.

  11. keesje

    In my experience Air France has better food and wine then most. However crew friendliness, economy seat comfort and transfers at CDG are below average IMO.

    Many code share opportunties with Virgin I guess.


  12. Jill Baird

    My employer usually books China Southern flights for me to China. The food is terrible. I am a vegetarian, and I am ALWAYS served pasta with tomato sauce – even for both breakfast and lunch on the same flight.
    And on top of that, they don’t even serve simple tea or coffee. It’s either pre-sweetened coffee, or weak lukewarm black tea.

  13. ltfisher

    Don’t blame the airline Jill as it has been like that for many years, and the idea of three different meals in a day isn’t terribly common in some cultures. You need to get stuck into your employer about the link between travel, working conditions and your ability to perform at your best after travel.

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