Johannesburg-based Airlink, the largest regional airline in southern Africa, and Cape Town-based Safair, parent of LCC FlySafair, have entered into a merger agreement under which Safair will be acquired by Airlink.

Safair is wholly owned by Dublin-based ASL Aviation Holdings, which will become a minority shareholder in Airlink following the merger.

Airlink, FlySafair and Safair’s other businesses, including humanitarian aid and cargo flights, will retain their brands, aircraft fleets and management teams after the merger, which the companies said would not result in any job losses. The two companies will submit their merger plan to South Africa’s Competition Commission Nov. 28 for approval and anticipate a decision during the 2018 first quarter. 

Airlink CEO Rodger Foster said in a statement that the merger is being pursued to take advantage of “opportunities to reduce our combined costs, position ourselves for growth while at the same time increasing connectivity.” He added: “Our combined networks will enable us to connect 37 destinations in nine southern African and Indian Ocean countries and St. Helena. This will stimulate and enable trade, tourism, economic growth and social development in those markets we serve.”

Safair CEO Elmar Conradie said the merger “will create economies of scale that will enable both airlines to share costs, optimize assets and remove systems duplications.”

Airlink operates a fleet of nearly 60 aircraft including Embraer E190s, Avro RJ85s, ERJ 135LRs, Jetstream 4100s and Cessna 208B Grand Caravan EX aircraft. Earlier this year it took delivery of an E190, the first of 13 E190/E170s it has on order; those E-Jets will eventually replace all of the carrier’s 12 Avro RJ85s.

FlySafair operates a fleet of 11 aircraft, a combination of Boeing 737-400s and 737-800s.

Much of Airlink’s business is providing feeder traffic to South African Airways (SAA), which owns a 2.96% stake in the regional carrier. “The Safair purchase will not affect Airlink’s existing SAA franchise partnership, which continues to deliver traffic and business to SAA and Airlink,” according to a joint Airlink/Safair statement announcing the merger.

The companies said additional details of the merger will be released after the Competition Commission makes a decision on the proposed transaction.

Aaron Karp aaron.karp@penton.com