South African flag carrier airline South African Airways (SAA) has added capacity where possible following the liquidation of low-cost carrier Comair.
SAA chairperson and chief executive Professor John Lamola said in an interview that SAA was taking a deliberately measured response to the reduction in market capacity.
“SAA has already increased Cape Town services from three times daily to five times daily and this will further increase to six times daily in July. Durban has increased from times daily daily to four times and will increase to five times daily in July. Mauritius capacity is also doubling,” Lamola said.
SAA said it was deploying larger A320 equipment and occasional widebody aircraft when and where it made sense just like in the Cape Town and Durban routes. However, it accepted that it had a small aircraft fleet, which limited the airliner’s capacity.
SAA would experience the need for more capacity in the future.
“We are close to maximum aircraft utilisation on our current fleet. SAA is a proud member of the largest airline alliance, Star Alliance, which extends customer ease of mobility beyond SAA’s current route network.
“We continually explore opportunities to increase code-sharing arrangements with other international carriers and provide our Voyager members with SAA benefits even when they fly on a different airline,” Lamola said.
The flag carrier also said it continued to rise from the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“As an African airline, SAA is obsessed with the dream of a connected and prosperous Africa. Even within the constraints of the prudent strategy we are currently executing, we chose to start our operations with an Africa wide focus,” he said.
Lamola said they were proud of the pioneering partnership SAA had entered into with Kenya Airways, whereby he said they were creating the early foundation of a Pan-African airline group.
The overarching strategy of the airline, now back in business for over nine months, was to look for new routes that were both profitable and where there was growing demand. It said this would enable economic objectives to be met.
The airline had also seen excellent take-up of its flights to Ghana, Mauritius and Nigeria, again providing a crucial link between South Africa and the continent.
SAA said the aviation sector was starting to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“SAA is likely to commence international flights in the later part of 2023 or 2024,” Lamola said.
Last week, government repealed the Covid-19 regulations instituted to curb the climbing infection rate in May temporarily to help South Africans deal with the pending “fifth wave”.
This action meant that the regulations which included the wearing of facemasks at indoor public gatherings, limits for gatherings and travel requirements for entry to South Africa no longer applied.
Welcoming the lifting of these restrictions last week, The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) chief executive Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said outdoor activities, as well as large social gatherings were the backbone of the local tourism industry.
He said many businesses in the industry were yet to recover financially or even get back on track due to the restrictions.
Thus the TBCSA said it believed this move bode well for tourism ahead of spring and summer. It said stakeholders in the tourism sector would now be able to fully operate and make the necessary gains in boosting their businesses, and the overall economy of the country.
Rosemary Anderson, national chairperson of the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa) said they were absolutely thrilled that the government had lifted the restriction of 50% only capacity in conferences, events, exhibitions, musical events and big stadium events.
“This will really help our industry get back on its feet because we now have clarity and certainties. We can actually plan in advance, which is exactly what our industry needs. We’ve got lots of work to do to catch up with all the events and conferences that we lost especially in the international market, but our industry is resilient and we really are determined to try to do that. We are absolutely thrilled that we can get on with doing what we do best, which is create jobs and add handsomely to the economy,” Anderson said.
Otto de Vries, the chief executive of the Association of Southern African Travel Agents, said the travel industry was delighted with the announcement saying it would ensure some level of normality and confidence in the market that travel was open and easy.
“It will also certainly help to support the recovery of the sector. We are also delighted on the part of our members who are involved in events, particularly sport and business events, as the restrictions severely impacted on their ability to recover in a meaningful manner. All in all: good news,” he said.