China Southern began operations in 1989, based in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China. Having as main hubs Beijing Capital International Airport and Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, it became one of “Big Three” main Chinese carriers, along Air China and China Eastern.
By the end of 1991, China Southern’s fleet consisted of 38 Boeing aircraft, which help the airline carry almost six million passengers to and from 90 national destinations and 17 international cities.
The 17th of December 1992 marks the date when China Southern began thinking big, and placed an order for six Boeing 777 aircraft, three years later – on the 28th of December 1995 – becoming the first Asian airline to operate this aircraft model.
In 1996, the Guangzhou – Beijing – Amsterdam route became the first long-haul intercontinental route of the airline.
One year later, China Southern Airlines introduced its longest flight, connecting Guangzhou and Los Angeles, and being the first airline to fly a Boeing 777 non-stop across the Pacific.
In June 1997, the initial stock offering on the Hong Kong and New York stock exchanges generated over $700 million.
An important merger was announced in July 2000, when the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) decided to gather the ten existing airlines under its management, and form three groups revolving around Air China and China Eastern Airlines, as well as China Southern Airlines. This merger was concluded by the year 2004, after China Southern had integrated Zhongyuan Airlines (August 4, 2000), China Northern Airlines and China Xinjiang Airlines (in 2001).
In July 2000, routes to Sydney and Melbourne were added.
In the first month of 2005, five Airbus A380 super-jumbo planes were ordered, in an attempt to extend the fleet. This type of aircraft was operational by the middle of October 2011, and raised the carrier’s prestige, which became acknowledged as the first airline to operate this aircraft model in Mainland China, also ranking it worldwide as the seventh Airbus A380 operator.
Another important purchase aimed at consolidating China Southern’s fleet was made in August 2005, when 10 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners joined the ranks.
Six Boeing 777 freighters were ordered in October 2006, and delivered from November 2008 to July 2010. By making this move, China Southern aimed clearly at cargo development.
In 2007, China Southern Airlines became Asia’s largest airline in passengers carried.
On the 15th of November 2007, China Southern Airlines joined the SkyTeam Alliance, being the first mainland Chinese airline to enter a global airline alliance.
In January 2009, China Southern Airlines was the first Mainland China carrier to open a branch office in Taiwan.
In July 2009, China Southern launched a customer-oriented tool, specifically the “lost inquiry service”. By calling the service hotline call centre (at 020-95539) or the China Southern Airlines Baggage Information Department located in Guangzhou (020-86122921), passengers can find out more about the status of their delayed, damage or lost luggage.
In 2010, routes involving Australia were China Southern’s main concern, their expansion strategies being extremely visible when comparing 2009 and 2010 transfer flights to the region. While in 2009, the carrier held a total of 14 flights per week and 2 navigation points in Australia and New Zealand, in 2010 the number of flights increased to 42 per week, 5 navigation points being established in the region (Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney). This significant growth made China Southern the largest carrier on the China – Australia market, and Guangzhou became the most important gateway from China to Oceania.
Drawing a line at the end of 2010, the total number of domestic and international passengers carried by China Southern Airlines was estimated at 76.5 million, its average load factor being 79.2%.
The 27th of January 2011 marks the date when China Southern became the largest four-star airline to receive the Four Star Skytrax award.
China Southern Airlines’ first inaugural flight to Canada took place on the 15th of June 2011, the destination being Vancouver. The airline’s first cargo flight to this new passenger and trade route landed on July 5, 2011.
During 2011, the airline’s presence on the international markets became more visible, as a result of opening or expanding new key navigation points in Amsterdam, Auckland, Istanbul, Perth, Tbilisi and Vancouver.
A recruiting campaign was carried on in May and June 2012, when Dutch flight attendants were added to China Southern’s crew to serve the First and Business classes of the Guangzhou – Amsterdam route.
To the existing European (from Guangzhou to Paris and Amsterdam) and Oceania (from Guangzhou to Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney etc.) routes, in June 2012 China Southern added the Guangzhou – London route.
China Southern was awarded, on the 28th of September 2012, the Diamond Flight Safety Award. This important prize, given by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), made China Southern Airlines the leading Chinese carrier when talking about safe flights.
In October 2012, the world’s most luxurious Airbus A380 was selected to serve the Guangzhou – Los Angeles route.
By the end of 2012, China Southern had safely transported 86 million passengers throughout the world. This status allowed the airline to be recognised as the first among all Asian carriers, and also placed it on the third position in the 240-airlines IATA ranking system.
In June 2013, China Southern took delivery of its first Boeing 787, becoming the first Chinese carrier to take delivery of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which will be used as part of its international expansion plans, and also the first airline in the world to operate both A380 and B787. China Southern is the only Chinese airline to operate Airbus A380 aircraft.
In February 2014, China Southern took delivery of its first of 10 Boeing 777-300ERs ordered, and which is to be operated on the new North America route.
In January 2015, China Southern became the 6th airline in history, and the first outside the United States or Europe, to carry over 100m passengers in the year 2014. China Southern transported 109 million passengers in 2015, ranking the carrier first in Asia and the 4th in the world.
In 2016, China Southern rated 13th as “The Most Loved Airlines” by Skytrax, ranking the first among the airlines in the Chinese mainland.
In March 2017, China Southern Airlines announced a new Enhanced Rapid Transfer Service for international travelers at its home base at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport. All passengers traveling on China Southern Airlines’ international flights will no longer need to claim their checked baggage (all luggage will now be checked directly through to the passenger’s final destination directly) and pass through China Customs when transferring in Guangzhou (travelers may still need to make a customs declaration if needed).
In April 2017, in an effort to facilitate its rapid international expansion, China Southern ordered 20 Airbus A350-900 aircraft. The Airbus A350s will be delivered between 2019 and 2022 – six in 2019, six for 2020, four in 2021, and four in 2022.
In 2018, China Southern and its transported 140 million passengers, a year on year growth of 10.80%, while maintaining the highest safety records in China. In June 2018, China Southern was honored with the 2-Star Flight Safety Diamond Award by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).
In January 2019, China Southern Airlines began the transition process for its withdrawal from SkyTeam Alliance by December 31, 2019, at the same time as strengthening its partnership with American Airlines (a frequent flyer program partnership with American Airlines started in March 2019) and other carriers, mostly Oneworld members (codeshare agreement with Finnair was launched in June). China Southern will officially leave the SkyTeam Alliance on January 1, 2020.
Despite its impressive fleet size and number of flights, China Southern Airlines only had three deadly incidents, the worst of them taking place in November 1992, when a Boeing 737 crashed near Guilin, Guangxi, due to an engine malfunction, killing all 141 people on board.