South African Airways Eyes New Alliance With Kenya Airways

South African Airways and Kenya Airways are planning a major alliance in the near future. The two airlines are hoping to leverage their strengths to create a Pan-African airline partnership. The alliance will hopefully help both carriers recover from their dire financial situations in the coming years.

South African Airways Airbus A350-900 ZS-SOC
South African is coming out of administration as a much smaller airline, with its long-haul aircraft gone. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Coming soon

After talk of a major partnership between South African Airways (SAA) and Kenya Airways in recent months, the deal is closer to being formalized. According to One Mile At A Time, Kenya’s President spoke of the alliance in his New Year’s Address, saying,

“To boost tourism, trade, as well as social engagement, and to bolster continental integration, our national carrier Kenya Airways will join hands with partners in South Africa to establish a Pan-African airline, with unmatched continental reach and global coverage.”

Kenya Airways Boeing 787 Getty
Kenya Airways is no longer undergoing nationalization but will see greater state support in the coming months. Photo: Getty Images

While details of the alliance remain sparse, it is coming in the future. So how are the two airlines doing today?

Johannesburg and Nairobi

It’s no secret that SAA and Kenya Airways are both financially struggling. Indeed, the South African carrier only emerged from bankruptcy in September 2021, after over a year and a half of being grounded.

Meanwhile, Kenya Airways has done better, staying flying through the pandemic and growing its cargo operations to stem losses. However, this has done little to help the carrier tackle its huge debts and COVID-linked losses, leaving it on the brink.

Kenya Airways at Nairobi
Both airlines could see major benefits from teaming up, including offering new services within the continent. Photo: Getty Images.

The carrier was set to be fully nationalized since last year, but those plans have been dropped, according to Reuters. Instead, the government will offer a huge bailout to the airline, consisting of an $827mn debt transfer and $473mn in aid.

It’s clear that both airlines need a long-term plan to remain sustainable. So what exactly will this partnership entail?


There has been no official announcement of what the SAA-KQ partnership will look like, except for the promise of a Pan-African airline. While some had assumed this would mean the two airlines are merging, this is false, with the pair considering a joint-venture or alliance of sorts.

For South African, KQ offers a chance for its passengers to connect to long-haul routes. With the airline losing all of its widebodies during its restructuring, KQ’s 787s will provide one chance for SAA to fly its passengers in Europe, Asia, or North America.

SAA will be hoping that the partnership will aid its long-term recovery in the market. Photo: Airbus

Meanwhile, Kenya Airways can expect to see greater returns on flights to South Africa and the region. Eventually, both airlines will be hoping to launch a slew of routes across Africa to cater to unmet demand. This will bring it up against Ethiopian Airlines, which has dominated much of the market. For now, keep a close eye on collaborations between the carriers and how it aids their recovery.

What do you think about the alliance between South African and Kenya Airways? Let us know in the comments!