If I had to guess:
has such a dominant position in the South African (and general African markets for that matter), they didn't really see the value-add in joining an alliance for some time. That is to say: whether or not they were part of an alliance, they would get the lion's share of revenue in Africa simply because they are a world-class airline (in a region that is sorely lacking those) and owing to their route network. Their old strategy was to do codeshare agreements with various players that could deliver short-haul feed to their JNB
hub and CPT
endpoints. Hence, the deals with LH
In addition to the changes brought about by privatization (and the obvious, eventual liberalization of African skies), I think SAA saw entering an alliance as a move to avert direct competition from the group that would be most likely to try and eat their lunch: Star. Also, the move will hopefully increase overall the number of people flying to South Africa for tourism - which is where most of their medium-term growth needs to come from - the historically important South African diaspora market having levelled off in size. You will note, however, that SA
's entry into Star isn't exactly moving along at the pace of some of the other airlines - I'm not sure this is a huge priority for them.
As for the other African airlines - they are largely unfit to join the major alliances. If you've had the "pleasure" of flying carriers like AT
, you'll know what I'm talking about. Possibly the only place they could reasonably go is SkyTeam: the alliance for the "rest of us".
Now, more intriguing: why haven't the gulf carriers joined an alliance? Are they too competitive? Too subsidized? Is there a need? I think the rumours about AI
joining Star and the eventual addition of a Chinese carrier to Star will hasten the joining of EK
or another gulf carrier into the alliance.
Star will be *gigantic* within the next few years. Luckily for them, service consistency across the alliance isn't exactly their strong suit.