United Airlines and Africa’s fast-growing airline Airlink have signed a new codeshare agreement. United says it will offer customers more connections between the US and Southern Africa than any other airline alliance. The new agreement, which is subject to government approval, would offer one-stop connections from the US to more than forty destinations in Southern Africa. The codeshare means Airlink inks another partnership with a leading airline.
Additionally, United will be the first airline to connect its loyalty program with Airlink, allowing MileagePlus members to earn and redeem miles when they travel on Airlink flights. This new cooperation will be in addition to United’s existing partnership with Star Alliance member South African Airways.
Vice president of international network and alliances at United, Patrick Quayle, said: “Through our codeshare agreement with Airlink – which is the most expansive partnership in Southern Africa – customers will be able to easily explore more bucket list destinations across the continent including easy connections to Zambia, Zimbabwe, and more.”
North America important market to Airlink
Airlink CEO and Managing Director, Rodger Foster, said: “North America is an important source market for our destinations. This codeshare will make it easy for its North American customers to reach the Okavango Delta, Chobe, the Kruger National Park, and adjacent private game lodges, Cape Town, the Garden Route, Swakopmund, and the Copperbelt, among others. Similarly, the codeshare means that our customers in the twelve African countries we currently serve will have fast and seamless access to all of United’s network.”
Airlink is an independent, full-service airline. It operates a fleet of 48 aircraft, including 28 Embraer 135s, 13 E190s, and three E170s. Two more leased E190s are set to join the carrier. Before the crisis in 2019, it carried two million passengers. The network includes 45 destinations in twelve countries in Southern Africa, Madagascar, and St. Helena. It resumed operations in Mozambique earlier in September.
In August, Airlink announced that it will expand its existing partnership with Emirates and open up South Africa and surrounding countries for customers of the UAE airline. Like United, Emirates also has a partnership with SAA which resumed services just last week. In May, Airlink signed an interline agreement with Kenya Airways. It did the same in January when it tied up with Lufthansa and SWISS.
United continues to build African network
United has continued to demonstrate its commitment to Africa, starting three brand new flights to the continent this year alone including a new service to Accra (Ghana), Lagos (Nigeria), and Johannesburg (South Africa). The airline recently announced it will start services between Washington and Lagos (Nigeria) on November 29, five years after dumping the lucrative route. The carrier attributed its exit from Nigeria to Nigeria’s Central Bank of Nigeria’s foreign exchange policy has restricted the movement of foreign currencies abroad after the global slump in oil prices depleted the country’s foreign reserves.
On May 15, United restored non-stop services to Accra from Washington DC. As the third-largest airline globally measured by fleet size and several routes, it will compete with Delta Airlines on the Accra- New York JFK route. About four million people have connections to Ghana across the globe. The United States has over 116.000 Ghanaians living in the country. This implies that there will be many people who will fly to and from Ghana. United’s popular service between New York/Newark and Cape Town, South Africa will also resume on December 1.