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A Review of China Southern Airlines: The Largest Airline in China

China Southern Airlines is the largest airline in China with headquarters in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. It has a fleet of over 850 passenger and cargo aircraft, and operates over 3,000 daily flights to 224 destinations in 40 countries. Skytrax certifies China Southern as a 4-Star Airline and has ranked it within the top 10 best airlines in Asia.

Does China Southern live up to expectations? We decided to book flights and see for ourselves.

China Southern Airlines website

The China Southern website, csair.com, is where passengers can book flights and search for information about flight-related services. It’s available to view in Chinese and English, and while it’s well-designed with ample information a passenger needs, the user-interface leaves a bit to be desired.

A screenshot of China Southern Airlines websites, csair.com
China Southern Airline’s website, csair.com

If you’re using a mobile and arrive at the China Southern website via a search engine, you may be presented with the desktop site, which isn’t particularly well-formatted on a mobile device.

Instead it’s better to visit m.csair.com, the China Southern site optimised for mobile browsing. While certainly a better browsing experience, the mobile site has its own navigation issues. For example, after having switched from Chinese to English language, clicking on the Check In page redirects you to a page entirely in Chinese.

However even if you have little-to-no Chinese language ability, one can take a decent guess that passengers are being encouraged to download the China Southern mobile app. It’s not available on Google Play but can be downloaded on the Apple App Store or directly on the China Southern website. Passengers may be able to get an insight on what to expect by looking at the reviews.

A negative review of China Southern Airlines' app on the Apple App Store
A negative review of China Southern Airlines' app on the Apple App Store

Flight Experience

If the tech behind the China Southern website and app is lacking, the flight experience is the opposite. For an Economy Class flight, an initial impression is that seats are spacious and you get more leg room than what you may be used to with other airlines.

For a 5 hour flight (and presumably longer durations) the cabin crew distributes blankets in a different manner to other airlines. Flight attendants walk down the aisles, asking if anyone wants a blanket. Those who request one are given one. There are more than enough blankets to go around and flight attendants make several trips to ensure no one is left out. Perhaps this is a more efficient system than providing a blanket for each passenger. Only those that want one are given one, instead of a passenger having a blanket but not wanting it, taking up unnecessary space.

Inside a China Southern aircraft cabin
China Southern Airlines has spacious seating.

China Southern takes flight safety very seriously. Along with safety demonstrations and safety instruction cards provided to each passenger that one expects from any reputable airline, it’s noticeable how China Southern’s flight attendants ensure everything is safe and secured before take off and landing. They walk down the aisles several times to check that seatbelts are fastened, seats are in the upright position and window shades are open. Unlike other airline staff that do quick, cursory checks, it’s noteworthy that China Southern’s flight attendants do proper checks for each passenger.

Safety demonstration on a China Southern Airlines flight screen
China Southern takes extra care for flight safety.

China Southern’s cabin crew are polite and professional, and can speak English, which is helpful for international passengers. During a flight delay in which passengers had already boarded, the cabin crew kept people up to date, explaining that the plane was waiting for ATC clearance.

China Southern Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner taxiing at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport.


What’s a flight without a good meal, right? Well, China Southern has a variety of dining options in Economy Class that are described as “featured meals that are unique to Guangzhou and CSA.” These include Salt Baked Chicken Rice, Fried Beef Rice and Hainan Chicken Rice. Complimentary snacks such as peanuts and fruit are offered for short haul flights.

There are noticeably no vegetarian options in China Southern’s main inflight meal offerings. When asked if they had any vegetarian meals, flight attendants kindly offered additional snacks and food such as bread rolls, yoghurt and fruit, and suggested next time to book a special meal in advance.

China Southern has a large Special Meals offering that accommodates various dietary preferences including religious, health-conscious and children’s meals. These should be requested at least 48 hours prior to take off. However the issue in requesting a special meal can be made difficult due to problems with the China Southern website. In attempting to book a special meal, we received error messages that stated the passenger’s passport number wasn’t recognised and that the system was busy, and we should try again later.

An error on the China Southern Airlines website that states the "ID number of the passenger" i.e. passport number isn't recognised.
Passport number isn’t recognised.
An error on the China Southern Airlines website that states, "System busy, please try again later."
Problems with booking a special meal.

If you have dietary requirements that aren’t met by China Southern’s main meal options and you experience problems booking a special meal on their website or app, there are several options you can try:

China Southern Airlines plane
China Southern operates over 3,000 flights a day.

Inflight Entertainment

If the China Daily newspaper you’re offered when boarding the plane isn’t to your interest, China Southern’s inflight entertainment system has got you covered. It provides film, TV, music and gaming options as well as a children’s entertainment channel.

The film channel, named Sky Movies, has many films to choose from within a variety of categories such as Hollywood, Chinese, European, Asian, British, International and Classical. The TV channel is similarly varied with categories such as Cultural China, TV Drama, Youku Special and Variety Show.

For the international traveller, the inflight entertainment system’s default language can be changed to English, French, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Film soundtracks are also offered in different languages. For example Creed III can be watched in its original English soundtrack or with Spanish, Italian and German soundtracks. The subtitles, however, are only in Chinese.

If you need internet connectivity China Southern offers inflight Wi-Fi that can be purchased, however depending on your flight, you may be in luck as the airline is gradually rolling out complimentary Wi-Fi to more routes and flights.

Inside the Economy cabin of a China Southern Airlines plane.
The spacious cabin of a China Southern Airlines plane.
China Southern Airlines table tray with information about inflight Wi-Fi
China Southern offers an inflight Wi-Fi service.


China Southern Airlines is an excellent airline, justifiably rated by Skytrax as one of the top 10 airlines in Asia. Its website needs quite a bit of improvement, however this is made up for by a very good flight experience, particularly with regards to the cabin crew’s emphasis on safety. As an indication that they’re doing things right, in 2021 China Southern received over 18,500 letters of commendation from passengers.

If you’re headed to China soon, check out our article China Travel Tips: Things To Know Before Visiting.

China Southern Airlines plane taking off from Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport.

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