SAA’s low-cost division, Mango, which added two more new generation Boeing aircraft to its fleet in the past 12 months, had reached a stage in its development when it was looking at opportunities for expansion outside South Africa, its chief executive, Nico Bezuidenhout, said yesterday.
The airline already has an international air services licence, which it received in September last year, and now flies from Lanseria Airport in addition to OR Tambo International Airport.
Bezuidenhout noted that, although it intended to continue investing in the development of its local route network, and had grown its market share by 5 percentage points in the past 12 months, “growth in the domestic market is dampened by finite demand and, at this time, excess capacity on the traditional golden triangle routes connecting Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.
“At the same time, building scale is critical to the ongoing growth of an airline. This would make regional expansion, within the range of the aircraft type that we operate, the next logical step in Mango’s evolution.
“Mango is presently in the process of investigating the viability of both leisure and business destinations beyond our borders.”
Such plans are in line with plans developed by SA Tourism to increase the number of tourists from increasingly prosperous countries in Africa.
Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk suggested that more services by low-cost airlines were needed to encourage this growth.
Siza Mzimela, SAA’s chief executive, said in Parliament last month that Mango’s low cost base made it a very competitive airline within Africa, particularly for holiday traffic.
“We are looking at the feasibility of expanding Mango into regional leisure markets. We have completed a flight operational valuation of all leisure destinations within Boeing 738 range of South Africa.
“These include Mauritius, Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, Mombasa and Livingstone.
“Mango’s use as a regional market growth tool would support the [SAA] group’s growth objectives.”
Mzimela also suggested setting up regional hubs for SAA, Mango and SA Express in other parts of Africa, to overcome Johannesburg’s distance from many of South Africa’s markets.