South African Airways (SAA) aims to build a West African hub as part of an aggressive growth strategy to deliver Star Alliance an enhanced route structure in Africa, writes Justin Wastnage.

The Johannesburg-based carrier, which was admitted into the Lufthansa-led alliance earlier this year and is set to formally join in the second quarter of next year, says it has set its sights on Senegalese capital Dakar as the site for a mini-hub to mirror its interests in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where it acquired a stake in Air Tanzania.

Nomfanelo Magwentshu, SAA vice-president, alliances and aeropolitical affairs, says: "When SAA joins Star, we are going to be very aggressive to develop a true African network." The carrier will ask African Airlines Association (AfrAA) members to increase penetration into Dakar, which could also eventually be used to launch more routes to the Americas, she adds.

Codeshare partners will be welcomed, says Magwentshu. "SAA's African strategy needs your co-operation," she told AfrAA delegates meeting in Dakar for the association's annual general meeting.

Reaction from AfrAA members was muted. Air Malawi chief executive Esther Chioko says: "At least we know where they stand and we can attempt to find niches in which they don't operate."

Meanwhile, KLM's senior vice-president of alliances, Hans de Roos, warns African airlines that most of the continent's carriers cannot be considered for membership in an alliance until there is further consolidation. "There are too many small airlines with restricted networks to be worthwhile additions to the three major alliances," he says.

De Roos advises further privatisation, development of route networks and changes to legislation forbidding third-country codeshares.


Source: Flight International