China Southern Rebrands Domestic First Class

Filed Under: China Southern

China Southern is making a change to how they categorize their forward cabin on domestic flights. This is more interesting in theory than anything else, because there aren’t any major implications in this case.


Via Business Traveller:

“China Southern Airlines will reposition its first class cabin as business class in October.

The carrier is thought to have made the move, which comes into effect on October 26, to combat the impact of a crackdown by the Chinese government on wasteful departmental spending.

However, the change will only apply to single-aisle aircraft flying on domestic routes within the China mainland.”

Presently China Southern operates three cabins on most flights within China — they have first class (the forward cabin), premium economy (which is really just economy with a few extra inches of legroom), and economy.

Their first class is much like domestic first class within the US, so is by no means more luxurious than the other business class products out there — they simply chose to brand it as first class.

I guess to make the bureaucrats happy and feel less wasteful they’re changing the name to business class. Everything else should remain the same, from the service to the seats to the fares.

I mean, it would be a real travesty if this change caused them to downgrade their champagne selection or lavatory cleaning protocol… ­čśë


For example, looking up fares between Guangzhou and Ningbo in the second half of October, you’ll see the premium fares listed as “First Class:”


While if you search in early November, you’ll see the premium fares listed as “Business Class:”


In this case I would assume the price difference comes down to the date I’m searching, and not that they’re charging a price premium with the name change as such.

This only applies on narrowbody aircraft, so on widebody aircraft with both first and business class cabins, they’ll continue to be named accordingly.

Most Chinese airlines name their forward cabin first class, so it would be great if this was changed across the board. For example, if you book an Air China flight within China right now, you’d have to pay the three cabin first class award cost, since technically the forward cabin is “O” class, which is the code for first class.


That means on a business class award you’d be stuck in economy on a flight within China.

Bottom line

Chinese bureaucracy is potentially working in our favor for once — woohoo!

(Tip of the hat to Peter)

  1. Annoyingly, Air China sells Business Class as First Class domestically even on three cabin 777-300ER with F. I bought F expecting F on that particular three cabin aircraft. Very frustrating. There was only one, old, important-looking Chinese man in F.

  2. I was able to fly Air China domestic “first” on a business class award (last year). It seems like if you search segment individually it will show the seats and cost as business. But when searched as part of larger itinerary it only shows economy.

    I called in and told them and the representative fixed the issue.

  3. In my experience booking with USDM (when they were still in *A) on Air China, J award is unavailable for most Chineses domestic flights, since those are 2-cabin flights classified as F+Y. J is only available on a handful of 3-cabin flights having a proper J section, and those are typically long-haul flights making a stop in China before continuing to the final destination in China. Mine was SYD-PVG-PEK, so the PVG-PEK segment does have a proper J class and bookable as such.

    So the rebranding of “F” to J is actually quite nice ­čÖé

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