You Can Now Use American AAdvantage Miles on China Southern

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.

Mileage-Earning

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
First F 100% 50%
Business J, C 100% 50%
Business D, I 100%
Premium Economy W 100% 10%
Premium Economy S 50%
Economy Y 100%
Economy P, B, M, H, K 50%
Economy U, A, L, E, Q 25%
Economy V, Z 10%

Redeeming Miles

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.

Lounge Access

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Disappointing. No EQDs or EQMs on flights booked on China Southern directly.

    Very little incentive to fly on China southern except for connecting flights within China.

  2. When booking intra-China flights on China Southern using Delta miles, a business-class award automatically lands me in first class. I’ve flown first class on China Southern A380s and 777-300s from Guangzhou to Beijing (connecting from BKK) using stymiles er skymiles. There may be other routes within China where that works. You get international first-class seats and international first-class “light” soft product on that three-hour flight. China Southern does a much better job with its first-class light product than AA did with first class on 777s in the US.

    Will using AA miles intra China on China Southern get the same result?

    The China Southern departure from Skyteam was reported to have happened in January 2019. Did that not in fact happen?

  3. No chance in hell I will fly China Southern, but it’s still a good thing in that maybe this will reduce demand slightly for CX and JL award space.

  4. I called AA today and tried to book flight from JFK to CAN w award redemption and they said that route does not exist. Any advice?

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