South African Airways (SAA) officials have dismissed reports of a comprehensive merger with Kenya Airways in East Africa.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said the two airlines were prepared to join forces to overcome their respective economic troubles in a New Year’s address.

“To boost tourism, trade, and social engagement; and to bolster continental integration; our national carrier Kenya Airways will join hands with our partners in South Africa to establish a pan-African airline,” Kenyatta said.

The Standard, a Kenyan daily, published the statements.

On Monday, SAA spokesperson Vimla Maistry emphasised that no such move was planned.

Maistry, on the other hand, stated that plans to collaborate, which were first disclosed in September of last year, were progressing forward.

Maistry explained, “The plan is to leverage both networks for the benefit of customers – extensive codeshare for example – and leverage operational efficiencies between the two, but the brands will operate independently.”

“In September SAA and Kenya Airways signed a memorandum of co-operation with the view of creating “a pan-African airline group,” Maistry added.

SAA’s then-CEO, Thomas Kgokolo, commented at the time: “As well as being a strong local carrier, part of our broader growth strategy is to become a major player in regional travel and this joint memorandum with Kenya Airways, one of the strongest and most respected carriers on the continent, will do just that.”

According to a statement by the two airlines at the time, such an airline group could, in time, “enhance mutual growth potential by taking advantage of strengths of the two airlines’ busy hubs”.

However, the agreement does not restrict either of the airlines from pursuing commercial cooperation with other carriers.

During Kenyatta’s visit to South Africa in September last year, SAA and Kenya Airways reportedly signed a strategic collaboration framework.

Any agreement, according to Kgokolo, would be aimed at assisting both airlines in the post-Covid-19 business and travel environment.

This, he said, may include joint recovery strategies as well as other cost-cutting measures to help both carriers recover in an increasingly competitive African airline sector.

Any agreement, in whatever form, is expected to take effect in 2023.

– India’s new age travel digital media


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