La Réunion-based Air Austral and Air Madagascar have signed an MOU with SkyTeam member Kenya Airways to lay the foundation for a new partnership and boost their presence in Africa and the Indian Ocean.
The three airlines have committed to develop codeshare agreements, increase connectivity options, and offer a wider choice of services.
The carriers believe that all three hubs—Nairobi (Kenya), Antananarivo (Madagascar) and Saint Denis de La Réunion—are well positioned to implement new connections between the Indian Ocean and the African continent.
Air Austral CEO Marie-Joseph Malé said the agreement is a “huge step forward in the implementation of a strategic partnership with Air Madagascar.”
This new strategy was established from the outset of a business recovery plan for Air Madagascar. In November 2017, Air Austral finalized an agreement with Air Madagascar that saw it take a 49% stake in the Antananarivo-based carrier, on the condition that Madagascan authorities would clear the airline’s debts and improve airport infrastructure on the island.
“This partnership is consistent with Kenya Airways’ strategy to improve its network efficiency, and grow through partners while focusing on the high yield corporate and leisure segments,” Kenya Airways Group MD and CEO Sebastian Mikosz said.
Air Madagascar CEO Rolland Besoa Razafimaharo said, “The milestones of the consolidation and development of our respective presence in the Africa and Indian Ocean Zone have been set; the next step is now to explore the different possible synergies between our three companies in various fields, such as fleet, maintenance, training and cargo …”
However, Air Mauritius is also looking to form an alliance with Kenya Airways and South African Airways as rising fuel prices and exchange rate fluctuations create pressure on the Indian Ocean-based carrier, CEO Somas Appavou told ATW in June. He said the yet-to-be named venture would be the first African airline alliance, which could be in place by September, at the latest.
Even with these new ventures, the existing Vanilla Alliance, which was established in 2015 by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) airlines, is expected to remain in force. The alliance—comprising Air Austral, Air Madagascar, Air Seychelles and Air Mauritius—was created to improve air services between IOC member states and provide international connectivity to the region.