Home South African SAA, Kenya Airways inch closer to super airline dream

SAA, Kenya Airways inch closer to super airline dream

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South African Airways and Kenya Airways’ plans for a super airline to dominate the African skies has come closer to fruition.

File picture: Reuters

SOUTH African Airways (SAA) and Kenya Airways’ plans for a super airline to dominate the African skies has come closer to fruition with the announcement of a codeshare agreement, which will see each airline sell under its own code, flights operated by the other.

Passengers travelling out of South Africa will have more options to travel to African destinations including Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Entebbe, Mombasa and Kisumu, while Kenya Airways’ passengers will have more options for travel into southern Africa including Cape Town, Durban and Harare.

This follows the signing in November last year of a strategic partnership framework, which is expected to improve the financial viability of the two carriers by cutting costs, increasing the size of the available fleet at their disposal through code sharing, and potentially leading to a new pan-African airline group by 2023.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, the airlines said the growth of the partnership would see the addition of Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, Juba, Douala, Lusaka, Ghana and Nigeria subject to government approval as they seek to offer more options for travellers within Africa.

Allan Kilavuka, Kenya Airways CEO, said, “The additional destinations we believe will offer better customer journeys thanks to the number of frequencies and connections created as well as many opportunities for trade and tourism.”

Professor John Lamola, SAA’s acting CEO, said the airlines were also exploring ways to enhance co-operation on their respective frequent flyer programmes, including reciprocal earning and redemption opportunities and popular benefits such as lounge access, and would be announcing the details in due course.

Kenya Airways’ fleet constitutes about 34 aircraft while SAA’s once 40-strong fleet has been whittled down to nine.

An analyst, who declined to be named, said both airlines had struggled with market share on the continent in recent times. This had been made worse by travel restrictions at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic which had shrunk it further, as the more charismatic Ethiopian Airlines and carriers from the Middle East were carving their own niche in the territory.

“Airlines in Africa have very little chance to survive on their own long-term without continuous taxpayer support, because they are smaller in size and struggle to compete against UAE airlines that have access to cheap fuel, ideal hub locations and strong support from cash-rich governments. African airlines have been beset by financial mismanagement, debt and pilot shortages,” he said.

Pan-African Airline Group, the envisaged joint airline will see the governments of Kenya and South Africa taking a minority stake in the venture with plans afoot to recruit a third member from West Africa, most likely in Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast or Senegal.

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