“SkyTeam helps us to drive our standards and the simplification of processes,” Ngunze notes. “Being a full member of SkyTeam is also a strong endorsement, it lends us credibility—a lot of Europeans would probably not fly Kenya Airways if we were not associated with SkyTeam and big brands such as Air France, KLM and Delta.” This means not only an ability to generate greater traffic volumes, but also the important ability to attract higher quality traffic, e.g. higher yield and higher front-of-cabin seat loads, Mark Diamond says.
For John McCulloch, formerly managing director of Oneworld and now senior principal at Seabury Group, there is no doubt that small or regional carriers benefit from brand extension, network reach and feed disproportionately to larger carriers by entering an alliance. “If they are not in an alliance it is likely their feed is being eaten by another alliance, or by the mega-hubs and joint ventures. Assuming that they strike the right deal to balance their prorated revenues upon entry into the alliance, this benefit should outweigh expense,” he says. Kenya Airways' CEO is adamant that the SkyTeam membership is more an “enabler than a cost” and also Naikuni emphasizes that SkyTeam is “very fair with us” in regard to fees.
In a next step, the airline is looking to forge deeper commercial ties or even a joint venture with other SkyTeam partners. It has already has a cost- and revenue-sharing joint venture with KLM on the Amsterdam-Nairobi route and “we would like to conclude a strategic partnership with a member in Greater China,” says Ngunze. “We're really excited about the possibilities.”