South African Airways has resumed flights following a year-long hiatus. The country’s flag carrier began operations on Sept. 23 with three-times-daily services between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Other destinations included in the initial restart phase are Accra, Kinshasa, Harare, Lusaka and Maputo. The carrier says it will expand its route network as market conditions warrant.
“Our first order of business is to service our start-up routes efficiently and profitably and then look to expanding the network and growing our fleet, all depending on demand and market conditions,” said SAA’s Interim CEO Thomas Kgokolo.
The airline shut down its operations worldwide in March 2020, in part due to COVID-19-related global travel bans. However even before the pandemic, the state-owned carrier had long faced financial difficulties and had filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2019.
However it had continued to operate some cargo and repatriation flights until September 2020, when a lack of funds forced it to cease all flights.
Since then the airline has come out of business rescue at the end of April 2021, with the South African government planning to sell a majority stake in SAA to a local consortium – although this deal has yet to complete due diligence.
“This week is a proud and significant one for SAA and its staff as well as all South African citizens,” Kgokolo said. “Our journey back to the skies has not been easy and I pay tribute to our dedicated workforce in all areas of the business all of whom have and are putting in long hours ahead of this day. People in every facet of the business want nothing more than for SAA to succeed and for us to build a new airline based on safety and exemplary customer service.”
SAA’s board chairman John Lamola said that the carrier’s return “will provide more market equilibrium in terms of ticket pricing.”
According to Lamola, “Since the carrier went into and then out of business rescue there has been less local capacity and that means tickets have become more expensive. Our return to the skies will mean more competitive pricing and will enable more South Africans to fly.”
In addition to the question of economics, Lamola noted, “There is also the pride factor. Seeing SAA’s tail colors on international tarmacs is not only positive for South Africa but the rest of the continent.”