How Qatar Airways’ expansion into Africa will enhance connectivity

Two air planes set for the skies. Picture: Supplied

Two air planes set for the skies. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 5, 2024


Qatar Airways’s announcement of its intentions to expand its presence with a significant investment in a Southern African airline signals confidence in the African skies and will be good for business travel.

The airline is expected to acquire a 49% stake in Rwanda Air and a 60% stake in a new Kigali airport currently under construction.

And according to business travel management company FCM, investments like these will not only increase air traffic over Africa but it can also take the travel industry’s impact on the broader business economy to the next level.

Bonnie Smith, general manager of FCM, said this development heralds a transformative period for corporate travel.

“Qatar’s expansion into Africa is set to enhance connectivity significantly, which is crucial for business travellers. Better connectivity means more travel options and leads to competitive pricing, making international business travel more cost-effective,” she said.

Here are three ways in which Qatar Airways’s expansion into Africa will transform travel, according to the business travel expert.

Enhancing connection and competition

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the African aviation sector saw an 8.1% increase in demand from internal passengers compared to 2023.

Qatar’s entry into Africa can offset the ticket price hikes that normally come with increased travel demand.

During the first two months of 2023, Africa saw a 24% increase in business class fares and an 18% increase in economy class fares as business travel. However, when other airlines enter a market, everyone has to lower their prices to stay competitive.

Smith said international airlines introduce new fare categories from basic economy to premium business class, each with different pricing and service levels.

“This allows business travellers to prioritise cost-saving or more comfort and services based on their individual needs. And, because international airlines operate on a larger scale than most regional carriers, their extensive networks and larger fleets can lead to cost-savings in operations as well as for customers,” she said.

She said expanding air travel networks enable businesses to establish and grow their operations in more markets.

This includes exclusive access to untapped markets, allowing companies to foster economic development and enhance business prospects as well as job opportunities for under-served communities.

Embracing codeshare agreements

Smith said international airlines have codeshare agreements with several African airlines and Qatar Airways, for example, has one with RwandAir.

“This gives business travellers access to markets not serviced by their usual airlines. It also allows for more flexible and convenient scheduling options.

“Airlines coordinate their schedules to minimise layover times and optimise connections, making it easier for business travellers to find flights that suit their tight schedules,” said Smith.

She added this can be especially beneficial for travellers needing to make short-notice travel arrangements or changes related to specific events or crises.

In addition, business travellers who rely on frequent flyer programmes to earn and redeem air miles, gain access to more airline partners.

For example, someone flying with Qatar Airways can earn air miles on flights operated by RwandAir, and vice versa. This results in more reward opportunities for travellers.

Combined pricing and cost-saving

Smith also highlighted that connectivity, competition and codeshare agreements help business travellers save costs through combined pricing strategies.

“Codeshare agreements, for example, enable airlines to pool resources and negotiate rates with each other. This results in mutually-beneficial pricing structures that are often more competitive than individual rates,” said Smith.

She added that TMCs can help businesses leverage these strategies with insight and access to these exclusive rates and corporate discounts.

“By taking advantage of these discounted rates, we can help businesses manage their travel budgets more effectively and reduce overall travel expenses.

“As international airlines like Qatar increase their presence and footprint across Africa, businesses must seize the opportunity to enter new markets and save on travel costs to keep up with international competition that ensues.

With the support of TMCs like FCM, businesses can navigate these changes seamlessly, leveraging combined pricing strategies to unlock savings and maximise the value of their travel,” Smith said.