SAA celebrates two-year milestone of returning to the skies

SAA has now expanded its routes to include 13 destinations after resuming operations with a mere four routes. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)

SAA has now expanded its routes to include 13 destinations after resuming operations with a mere four routes. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Sep 26, 2023


As South Africa’s national carrier, South African Airways (SAA), celebrates a two-year milestone after returning to the skies in September 2021, the airline said it was intent on regaining its position as a leading African airline.

This after it emerged from bankruptcy proceedings after a decade of financial losses, with Covid-19 and national lockdowns the final straw.

In August the Competition Tribunal of South Africa approved the proposed merger between SAA and Takatso Aviation, with divestiture and employment conditions, however so far it has been mum on sharing more details of this controversial deal.

Reflecting on the occasion, interim CEO Professor John Lamola said that in the world of aviation, resilience played a major factor in the success of airlines, particularly as many continued to weather the storms of the global shutdown in 2020 and other auxiliary challenges.

“As SAA, we have faced several significant challenges that led to the grounding of our proud airline for 18 months. However, since resuming operations, the team at the helm has been committed to rebuilding SAA into a stronger, more resilient version of its former self, managed by South Africans who understand the aviation landscape domestically and internationally, and who are charting a path based on strong fiscal governance,” Lamola said.

SAA said its accomplishments over the past two years were a testament to its determination to once again soar to new heights as the flag carrier of South Africa.

SAA has now expanded its routes to include 13 destinations after resuming operations with a mere four routes. By March 2025, this number would increase to 22 routes: three intercontinental, 15 regional and four domestic.

Most notable was the recent reopening of SAA’s São Paulo, Brazil, route – signalling the rejuvenation of its international routes.

Adding to this, the airline was scheduled to launch a new route on November 14 to Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire. Known as the “Paris of Africa”, SAA said the route would provide passengers with an opportunity to explore other beautiful destinations in Africa.

Lamola said their return to the international skies was proof of the airline’s positive progress over the past two years and he was confident that in the coming years they would be able to open new routes, both domestically and internationally.

The recent leasing of an Airbus A320 forms part of SAA’s strategic expansion plans, with its long-term vision being the leasing of six new aircraft to meet the demand for domestic flights, providing passengers with additional travel options.

SAA’s current fleet includes seven aircraft, namely five A320s, one A330 and one A340. Following technical checks and maintenance, the recently arrived A320 would bring this figure up to eight.

With the remaining four A320s and another A330 due to arrive soon, its fleet would comprise 13 aircraft, excluding two Boeing 737-800s, which were expected later this year.

Lamola said leasing, as opposed to the outright purchase of aircraft, allowed SAA the flexibility to analyse market requirements and strategically guide its growth.

“Our leasing of aircraft has been strategic, particularly since domestic routes between Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town have increased and are now surpassing pre-Covid levels. With the festive season upon us, our presence in the domestic skies will provide passengers with a greater number of options when travelling to their destinations,” Lamola said.

Committed to bolstering customer experience, the airline was also awarded fourth place in the World’s Most Improved Airline category, propelling i to 72nd place in Skytrax’s Top 100 World Airlines, improving from 79th place in 2022.

The airline said it believed it was not just any airline.

"We are South Africa’s national carrier. Today, we are fuelled by employees who work hard every day to ensure that the airline not only survives, but thrives. And with this mentality, I can assure all South Africans that we will continue on our upward trajectory and celebrate many years to come and regain our once-dominant position as a leading global carrier that we can all be proud of,” Lamola said.