Kenya Airways (KQ) is searching for a West African airline to join its partnership with South African Airways (SAA), which aims to establish a Pan-African airline by 2023. 

In a recent investor briefing, KQ Board Chairman Michael Joseph revealed that partnering with a West African airline would help supplement the airlines’ connectivity ambitions across the continent. 

“The intention is to invite a West African airline at some point in the future to also join. We will have a three-hub strategy of Nairobi, Johannesburg, and the West African hub to create better opportunities and services for our customers,” said Joseph, according to reports from Nation Africa. 

In September 2021, Kenya Airways and South African Airways signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) with the intention of consolidating resources and establishing a Pan-African airline group.  

“The future of aviation and its long–term sustenance is hinged on cooperation. KQ and SAA collaboration will enhance customer benefits by availing 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 Kenya Airways Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Allan Kilavuka in a press release at the time. 

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Following a MoC that both airlines signed in September 2021, Kenya Airways and South African Airways will form a new airline to launch in 2023
 

 Under this new partnership, KQ and SAA will form a holding company where the two airlines will maintain their brands and routes and continue to operate separately, added Joseph in the Nation Africa report. 

“The shareholders of the holding company will be strategic investors and individual governments that wish to retain their share,” he said.  

Joseph also added that the holding company will assist in supporting carriers across a range of operations, including maintenance, catering, and financing. 

Kenya Airways CEO, Allan Kilavuka commented that the partnership between the two airlines would help reduce costs across their operations. 

“We are looking at a group organisation sitting at the top of various anchor companies and then the two airlines continue to fly as separate entities but synergise schedules and some of the costs that are common among the group so that we reduce the unit cost,” said Kilavuka. 

In a statement from South African Airways, released in November 2021, SAA Chairman John Lamola said: “The partnership of [SAA and KQ] will improve the financial viability of both airlines by creating the most formidable air transport connection in Africa by benefiting from at least two attractive hubs of Johannesburg and Nairobi. It will ignite the Kenya and South Africa tourism circuits, which account for significant portions of the respective country’s GDP.”  

On April 1, 2022, KQ and SAA announced a new lounge access agreement for their customers as part of a Strategic Framework Agreement (SPF) signed by the carriers in November 2021. 

The SPF aims to increase passenger volumes, cargo opportunities, and general trade for both airlines across Africa while bolstering both carriers “financial viability”. 

According to a statement released by Kenya Airways, “the lounge access agreement will allow KQ business class customers as well as Sky Team Elite customers (Premium and Gold) to have exclusive access to the lounge services at the SAA ultra-modern Premium lounge located at O.R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.” 

“At the SAA lounges in Johannesburg, customers will have 2 lounge options to choose from. Both lounges offer a tranquil and comfortable escape from the hustle of the airport to freshen up, have complimentary WI-FI access, entertainment, indulge in food and beverages,” the statement continued.

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Kenya Airways reduced losses by 56% in 2021 and is set to receive a KSh20 billion bailout from the Kenyan Government.