Air Transport World

Attitude adjustment: Chinese carriers shed their dislike of the unknown and welcome alliances and foreign investment as a way of boosting their competitiveness.(COMPETITION)

Over the past few years, China's major carriers have undergone a transformation in their attitude toward foreign competitors. Their long-held pessimism and concern, perhaps best understood in the local saying "wolves are coming," has been replaced by a recognition that seeking cooperative partners among counterparts abroad is a way to boost competitiveness and create a win-win situation.

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The lucky thing is that it is not too late for them to make such moves. China Eastern Airlines signed an agreement to bring in Singapore Airlines as a strategic investor last Nov. 9. This was followed by China Southern Airlines' epochal entry into SkyTeam on Nov. 15, making it the first mainland carrier to gain full membership in a global alliance. On Dec. 12, Air China and Shanghai Airlines joined Star Alliance. As former CAAC Minister Yang Yuanyuan put it, Chinese carriers collectively have taken a giant step toward complying with international standards and thus being better positioned to compete against foreign counterparts in the international arena.

"Anytime, Anywhere, Anyone" is the goal set by China Southern, meaning that anyone (passengers) can find CZ at any time in any place after its formal entry into SkyTeam. Noting that membership put the CZ brand in front of millions of potential customers who already fly on the other members, President Liu Shaoyong said proudly, "Our chain store can be found in any part of the world; our sales and service outlets will also become 'convenience stores' for passengers around the world."

However, in contrast to the optimistic picture Liu paints, it's the harsh reality that remains noteworthy. New CAAC Minister Li Jiaxiang, who was previously president of Air China, pointed out in his new book "Route To Fly" that Chinese carriers still lag their more experienced global counterparts in many ways. …

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