China Southern Airlines is temporarily suspending its twice-weekly A380 service to London Heathrow. Outbound flight CZ303 and the return flight, CZ304, are not operating between January 14 and January 28, 2021. The airline attributes this to prevention and control advice regarding the COVID-19 pandemic from the Chinese Government. This follows China Southern Airlines previously suspending its London flights over the Christmas and New Year period.

By seat numbers, the Guangzhou-based airline is now the world’s third-largest airline. But that’s on the back of China’s domestic aviation market. While China Southern’s domestic arm may be performing well, its international arm continues to struggle. Second and third waves of COVID-19, border closures, and fast-changing travel restrictions continue to dampen international travel demand.

China Southern Airlines maintaining a skeleton international network

Before COVID-19, China Southern aircraft crisscrossed the northern skies between China and the United Kingdom. While China Southern Airlines has a whooping 622 planes in its fleet, only five of those are Airbus A380s. Of China Southern’s total fleet, only about 110 aircraft are what you might call international grade twin-aisle jets. The bulks are single-aisle Boeings and Airbus aircraft plying China’s busy domestic routes. Of China Southern’s five A380s, airline database says two are parked.

At the end of 2019, China Southern Airlines flew to 224 destinations in 40 countries (including China). Skip forward 12 months, and China Southern is down to around two dozen international destinations in 22 countries. Its footprint in Europe is reduced to weekly Airbus A350-900 flights to Amsterdam and Paris. That’s in addition to the on-again-off-again London services.

However, China Southern Airlines is maintaining skeleton services to five continents. There are twice-weekly A380 services to Los Angeles, weekly A380 services to Vancouver, and weekly Boeing 777-300 services to Toronto.

Slimmed-down services to nearly two dozen countries

China Southern Airlines continues to send one of its A380s to Sydney. Currently, it is the only airline to do so. A Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner operates its other flight to the Oceania region, a weekly service between Guangzhou and Auckland.

The airline continues to maintain a link with Africa, sending two flights a week to Nairobi. Interestingly, Nairobi is one of the very few international destinations China Southern Airlines now flies to from more than one airport in China. There’s a weekly China Southern A330 flight to Nairobi from Changsha and a weekly A330 service from Shenzhen.

Closer to home, China Southern is maintaining links with multiple countries in Asia. But schedules are severely trimmed. Most destinations see China Southern aircraft only once or twice a week. China Southern is still flying to Tokyo Narita, Seoul, Islamabad, Kathmandu, Dhaka, Singapore, Manila, Bangkok, Yangon, Kuala Lumpur, Vientiane, Ho Chi Minh, Jakarta, and Phnom Penh. Except for flights to Seoul and Narita (which depart either from Shenyang or Guangzhou) and Islamabad flights originating in Wuhan, all China Southern international flights are pivoting out of Guangzhou.

With the suspension of China Southern’s A380 flights to London, the airline’s long-haul A380 services are pared back to Sydney, Los Angeles, and Vancouver.

China Southern apologizes to its passengers for the inconvenience caused by the London flight suspensions. The airline is offering refunds. China Southern also notes the situation is highly fluid, and further adjustments to schedules may occur as needed.

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