Kenya Airways, South African Airways to merge, President Uhuru says

The partnership between Kenya Airways and South African Airways is expected to start in 2023. [File, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta has announced that Kenya Airways (KQ) and South African Airways (SAA) will partner to form Pan-African Airline.

In his New Year address on Friday, December 31, the Head of State said the move will enable continental reach and global coverage.

“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,” he said.

Uhuru visited South Africa late last month, and it is suspected that Kenya Airways-South African Airways deal was reached during his two-day tour.

Kenya Airways, which had predicted a grim full-year performance due to Covid-19 crisis, made a net loss of Sh11.48 billion in the six months to June 30, 2021, down from a net loss of 14.32 billion in the same period last year.

KQ’s would-be partner, South African Airways, returned to operations on September 23, 2021 after a one-year hiatus.

Prior to September 23, the airline had not flown any commercial flights since March 2020, and had ceased all cargo and repatriation flights in September 2020.

In three years, starting 2018, South African Airways told the country’s Parliament that it had made R16 billion (Sh113 billion) in losses over that period.

This came on the back of revelations that the airline had received R50 billion (Sh355 billion) of Government assistance between 2004 and 2020.

On November 24, Kenya Airways and South African Airways signed a strategic partnership framework in South Africa, in a move that would see the two carriers eventually form a Pan-African carrier.

The signing happened on the back of an official visit by President Uhuru to South Africa.

The joint airline is expected to begin operations in 2023.