SAA eyes stake in AirZim

Roadwin Chirara

AIR Zimbabwe (AirZim) has approached South African Airways (SAA) for a possible technical partnership, understood to be a preliminary stage for a possible acquisition of a small stake in Airz

im by the SAA.


But that possibility is still far off, sources say.


The SAA confirmed this week that they had been approached and were currently in talks with Airzim for a possible technical partnership agreement.

The talks between the airline and the SAA, which began in March, are being pursued as part of AirZim’s turnaround strategy.


The SAA general manager for business development, Nomfanelo Magwentshu, confirmed the negotiations but declined to give further details.


She however said the negotiations were centred on a code sharing arrangement on routes operated by the SAA. Code sharing means that airlines can cross-book their passengers. For instance, a passenger from Zimbabwe to Germany and onwarddestinations can book the SAA and later connect with Lufthansa using the same ticket.


“SAA and Air Zimbabwe are in the process of concluding a code share agreement on the routes operated by South African Airways,” Magwentshu said.


Magwentshu however said the technical agreement was currently in its draft stages but would be concluded and implemented in December.


“The agreement is still in draft stage and has not yet been signed. The parties are still in discussions. We envisage the agreement to be ready for implementation by December,” said Magwentshu.


Air Zimbabwe spokesperson, David Mwenga, confirmed the negotiations but refused to shed light on their current stage.


“I am sorry I cannot comment on the issue or even give indicators as to the current stage of the matter,” Mwenga said.


The two companies under the technical agreement are also expected to agree on a human resources secondment, where staff from the SAA will be expected to move into administrative roles at Air Zimbabwe, while staff from the national airline will go for training in South Africa.


Government is also expected to dilute its stake in the national carrier as part of the technical agreement in the long-term although no confirmation could be obtained on the matter.


The SAA is Africa’s largest airline with a fleet of more than 40 planes that fly to all five continents of the world.


The airline however this month cancelled its code sharing arrangement with Cathay Pacific on its Far East routes. The agreement which was forged in 1999 will end in March 2006 once the SAA joins the Star Alliance as a fully-fledged member. Cathy Pacific is already a member of the rival Oneworld grouping.


The Star Alliance network gives the SAA the opportunity to market new destinations including New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and China.


One of the requirements of the SAA joining the Star Alliance is that it has to limit its participation in code share agreements with those airlines aligned to other global branded alliances.

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