Efforts to establish a pan-African alliance between Kenya Airways and South African Airways have slowed, but the prospect of a wider airline grouping to serve the east, west and south of the continent is keeping the dream of improved air connectivity and more competition alive.

Speaking as the seventh Aviation Africa Summit gets underway in Abuja, Kane Ray, head appraiser at AviationValues, said efforts at consolidation between the two carriers had “dragged on” and there was a “seeming lack of progress” with reports now suggesting Kenya Airways is re-assessing its plans.

He told FINN: “There were some ambitious codeshare plans in mid-2022 that do not seem to have transpired. In a 2022 announcement, there were at least 13 codeshare agreements between the two, nine of which were immediately effective. However, KQ lists only five today.”

Airline alliances

However, Ray added that more ambitious plans for a broader alliance could yet bring efficiencies to the African aviation sector.

“There have been references made to creating an International Airlines Group model Pan African Airline, with more than just KQ and SAA,” he said.

“Our understanding here is for coverage throughout Africa, particularly in the East, West and South, where future growth has been highlighted by IATA. KQ has hinted at collaborating with a West African Airline partner too.

“Further plans are expected within 12 months with a finalising to the process in 2024, but there are mixed messages as to whether there will be an imminent announcement. We suspect there might be gradual progress, and timelines for expectations might be exceeded.”

Single African Air Transport Market

One means of achieving the objective of simplified air travel is the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), a flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063 – an initiative of the African Union to create a single unified air transport market.

SAATM will ensure aviation plays a major role in connecting Africa.

Ray said the initiative would improve many facets of internal and external traffic to the African continent. “As above in the KQ and SAA example, there are many obstacles to overcome,” he added.

“Today, the continent is recognised as having poor internal connectivity and underdeveloped airline route networks. In a continent that has the lowest GDP, it also has some of the highest air fares.

“Due to government influence and intervention, a lack of collaboration between airlines, and lack of standardised airport systems such as Advance Passenger Information (API) for passenger processing, it has led to processing bottlenecks and an ultimate overall poor customer experience.

“Barriers to, and lack of, collaboration, also means that there has been little incentive to expand services, create competition on routes and ultimately, reduce fares.”
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