Hilka Birns/CAPE TOWN

South African Airways (SAA) has secured bilateral agreements with Swissair and Singapore Airlines (SIA) and has extended its alliance with Lufthansa as part of its streamlining process ahead of privatisation.

The airline is also negotiating similar alliances in the Middle East, North America, South America and the UK, says chief executive Coleman Andrews. The implications for the alliances on SAA's much-anticipated privatisation, and the search for a foreign equity partner, remain unclear, however. According to Andrews, the options "remain open". An announcement about the partner, expected to take a stake of between 20% and 35%, is widely expected to be made in the next few weeks.

"Swissair, of the Qualiflyer global alliance, and Lufthansa/SIA, representing the Star global alliance, are interested in participating in our privatisation," says Coleman, who adds that there is also interest from the oneworld members and the Continental/ Northwest/KLM/Alitalia grouping. He will not be drawn on which alliance is favoured, but adds that the airline was now "-fully prepared to engage in an expedited privatisation process".

The new agreements, to be implemented between next month and April 1999, include expanded codeshares, frequent flier integration, joint sales and marketing, reciprocal wet leasing, possible integration of cargo networks between SAA, Lufthansa, SIA and DHL and training of management and in-flight services personnel.

SAA will streamline its long-haul fleet by leasing Boeing 747-300s from Swissair and 747-300s and -400s from SIA to upgrade its European services, which use older 747-200s and 747SPs. Closer association between SAA and Lufthansa will see the German carrier maintaining all SAA 747 engines, while SAA will overhaul Lufthansa 747 airframes.

SAA will cut its international network to two major hubs in Europe (Frankfurt and Zurich, with the introduction of daytime flights southbound from Zurich) and two in Asia (Singapore, Bangkok or Hong Kong). Lufthansa will distribute SAA traffic from Frankfurt to destinations in Germany, Scandinavia and northern, central and eastern Europe. Swissair will transport SAA passengers from Zurich to destinations in Austria, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and southern, western and eastern Europe.

SIA will operate tag-on flights from Singapore throughout Asia. SAA will distribute all Lufthansa, Swissair and Singapore traffic throughout southern Africa.

Source: Flight International