December 23, 2018 – Indian Ocean region carrier Air Mauritius is championing the formation of Africa’s first homegrown airline alliance that is expected to launch during the first quarter of 2019.
The alliance will bring together Air Mauritius, Kenya Airways, Rwandair and South African Airways in a partnership that is expected to expand options for air travel within the continent as countries dither on operationalizing open skies initiatives. The alliance which will see the carriers harmonise and rationalize their networks also promises to create a seamless travel experience covering a big portion of Africa.
Plans for an alliance were first hinted on by Air Mauritius Chief Executive Somas Appavou during a panel discussion at the launch of Airbus’ Aerospace Africa White Paper in Toulouse last October.
Mr. Appavou said alliances were the less risky way for airlines to increase intra-African connectivity because they spread the risk and costs of new routes among the partners. Addressing himself to the much touted Single African Air Transport Market SAATM, Appavou said it should not be expected to be a magic want since airlines will still need to evaluate the business case for new routes.
“I am not going to fly to Morocco unless there is traffic to justify that decision or if I want to use Morocco to get to some other place. But an alliance with Royal Air Maroc makes immediate sense because we can exchange passengers through Nairobi”, he says.
For Air Mauritius in particular which has a limited network in mainland Africa, the alliance will give it access to east, central and West Africa, positioning it to play more effectively in connecting its Asian destinations to Africa.
Because of their small size, many African airlines have been left out of global airline alliances such as One World, Star and Skyteam. With Ethiopian, South African Airways and Egypt Air, Star had the biggest footprint of any global alliance on the continent. Kenya Airways has been the only Skyteam member while One World got its first full member when Royal Air Maroc was admitted this month.
No name has so far been assigned to the proposed alliance and it was not immediately clear what impact it would have on Kenya Airways and South African’s membership to the global alliances.