Kenya Airways inks cooperation deal with South African carrier

A Kenya Airways plane

A Kenya Airways B787 Dreamliner. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

National carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) has signed an agreement with South Africa Airways (SAA) to boost passenger traffic, cargo opportunities and general trade.

KQ said the memorandum of cooperation signed on September 28 will also allow it to start talks on establishing a pan-African airline group.

The airlines, whose fortunes have taken a beating from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, said the deal will see them exploit their strategic positioning in global aviation, diversify earning streams and reinforce regional partnerships in Africa through diplomatic and commercial relations.

The partnership comes just two weeks after KQ reached another deal to lease out two planes, of the make Embraer E190, to Congo Airways to boost the DRC’s domestic operations. 

KQ also started direct cargo flights between Johannesburg and Lubumbashi, DRC’s third-largest city.

“The future of aviation and its long-term sustenance is hinged on cooperation. KQ and SAA collaboration will enhance customer benefits by (providing) a larger combined passenger and cargo network, fostering the exchange of expertise, innovation, best practice, and adopting home-grown organic solutions to technical and operational challenges,” said KQ managing director Allan Kilavuka.

End losses run

The airline boss said the carrier remained on its financial turnaround strategy, as it aims to end its years-long loss-making streak.

KQ believes the pursuit of partnerships will be key to its transformation, by ensuring its financial viability while offering world-class services in Africa and the world.

SAA’s interim CEO, Thomas Kgokolo, noted that the deal would enable the airlines to recover demand and better implement cost containment strategies, thus enabling them to recover from their current ill financial health.

“It will also enhance related Kenya and South Africa tourism circuits, which sectors account for significant portions of respective country growth domestic product, benefiting from at least two attractive hubs in Johannesburg, Nairobi and possibly Cape Town,” he said. 

“KQ and SAA, as iconic airline brands of Africa’s biggest and vibrant economies, in East Africa and Southern Africa respectively, are at the precipice of what could be Africa’s formidable pan-African airline.”

South African Airways saa plane

A South African Airways (SAA) flight is seen on the tarmac before departing from the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on September 23, 2021.

Photo credit: Emmanuel Croset | AFP

In 2020, the South African government announced that SAA would cease operations after 86 years of service. However, the airline took to the skies again this month, albeit as a slimmed-down international flight service to five African capitals: Kinshasa, Accra, Harare, Maputo and Lusaka.

Now, SAA and KQ aim to ride on the fact that the respective South African and Kenyan governments recognise them as strategic national assets.

Mr Kgokolo noted that the collaboration would help both airlines in the current and post-pandemic business and travel environment, through joint recovery strategies and other cost containment strategies that will enhance their competitiveness.

“This agreement does not offer an exclusivity that precludes either of the airlines from pursuing commercial cooperation with other carriers within the current route network strategy,” a statement from KQ said.