China Southern Airlines has become the 11th member of Skyteam, three years after it first signed a letter of intent to join the airline alliance.

The carrier joins the likes of Air France, KLM, Continental and Korean Air, and is the first airline from mainland China to join Skyteam – indeed it is the first mainland Chinese airline to join any of the global alliances.

This record won’t last for long though, as Air China and Shanghai Airlines are due to join the Star Alliance next month, and of course Oneworld already counts Hong Kong-based Dragonair (part of the Cathay Pacific Group), as an affiliate member.

With travel to China booming and Beijing holding the Olympics next year, it’s no surprise that the alliances have been eager to sign up Chinese members to extend their networks. China Southern serves 162 cities globally, including Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shanghai in China, and international destinations such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Paris and Tokyo. The carrier says it intends to launch ten new international routes before the Olympics.

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