Consolidation is the key to driving forward aviation in Africa, according to the chief executive of Kenya Airways.
“The future of African aviation relies on consolidation to reduce unit costs and connect the continent more,” Kenya Airways Group MD & CEO Allan Kilavuka said at the CAPA Airline Leader Summit in the UK on April 7, 2022.
“That’s what we’re working on,” he continued in a panel discussion that was streamed online. “We’ve started discussions with some of the major airlines in Africa, especially South African Airways. We want to see how to use assets from both airlines and increase connectivity.”
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 back in September 2021.
Joining forces would help bring unit costs down and make African airlines more viable, Kilavuka said, highlighting there were hundreds of small airlines across the continent, many of which were not profitable.
He said aviation was crucial to the African continent given poor road and rail links. Kenya Airways also has the benefit of a sizeable population in the region, Kilavuka said
“We need air travel. African carriers should grow, they have to grow,” he said, while also noting a lack of healthy finances is a challenge for the region’s airlines.
Kilavuka also noted that Kenya Airways was loss-making before the pandemic, and the COVID-19 crisis only made the situation worse. He said the airline was confident it now had the right people in place for a recovery but was still looking for the right business model.
Talking about current demand and recovery from the pandemic, Kilavuka said he expected demand across Africa to recover by the end of 2023. At Kenya Airways, although Omicron hit bookings in the first quarter of 2022, summer bookings are “very strong”, he said.