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Kenya Airways and South African Airways to form new airline to launch in 2023

Jan. 02, 2022
3 min read
Kenya Airways and South African Airways to form new airline to launch in 2023
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A potential partnership between Kenya Airways and South African Airways appears to be a done deal. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced during an address to the nation on New Year's Eve that the airlines will combine operations to form a new carrier, Pan-African Airline, with operations expected to begin in 2023.

The partnership came about as both airlines sought options to expand their global coverage as well as stem the massive losses each has incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to The Standard, Uhuru said the alignment will help “To boost tourism, trade, and social engagement; and to bolster continental integration."

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An Airbus A320 passenger jet, operated by South African Airlines (SAA), taxis past an Emirates Airline aircraft with 'Expo 2020' livery at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. South African Airways said “time is of the essence” for the government to provide a pledged cash injection if the loss-making national carrier is to continue flying. (Photo by Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Related: Kenya Airways business class JFK to Nairobi

According to one aviation industry observer, a merger offers both carriers the best chance to stay solvent.

"Both of these airlines were struggling financially before COVID-19, so you know they're hanging by a thread," noted John E. DiScala, the founder and editor-in-chief of Johnny Jet. "I think it's a great idea to keep them both afloat."

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A big question that remains unanswered at the moment is what this means for the airline's network partnerships. South African Airways is part of Star Alliance, the biggest international alliance of airlines. Kenya Airways belongs to SkyTeam. There has been no information released about which network the new airline will be part of. That decision will obviously impact a number of travelers who want to learn if they will be able to redeem Delta or United miles when Pan-African Airline debuts.

Back in September, Reuters reported Kenya Airways said in a statement, "It is not a merger but a partnership that seeks to re-organise (sic) KQ and SAA assets into an ecosystem that will make the South African and Kenyan aviation sector more competitive."

Kenya Airways has suffered dire financial losses since the coronavirus crisis upended global air travel. It reported losses of more than $333 million in 2020, and lost more than $100 million in the six-month period that ended June 30, 2021.

Related: South African Airways in coach to JFK

South African Airways only recently resumed operations last September after grounding all commercial and cargo flights since September 2020. But even before the pandemic, SAA was hemorrhaging cash. Since 2018, the airline had amassed close to $1 billion in losses. It took an infusion of cash from the government to keep the country's national carrier in operation.

It is believed that the deal to combine operations and form Pan-African Airline was finalized during Uhuru's two-day visit to South Africa last month.

Featured image by Bloomberg via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

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  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more