After almost a year with no flights and mothballed operations, South African Airways is ready to take off again. The airline has confirmed that it will resume flights on September 23rd, with bookings and travel credit redemptions open from September 6th.
SAA is back
The wait is finally over! South African Airways has announced a return to operations, with its first flights planned for September 23rd. Initial flights will connect Johannesburg and Cape Town with several other African countries, and will be open for bookings from September 6th.
The last 12 months have not been kind to South African Airways, as the airline went into the pandemic crisis already in a precarious financial position. The airline had been placed into administration in December 2019, and COVID only added to its woes. With the situation getting worse, the entire business was mothballed in September last year, and no flights have taken off since.
The airline exited business rescue at the end of April, with the groundwork laid for a return to operations. With the airline solvent and control handed back to the board and executive team, it was only a matter of time before the green light was given for a relaunch.
Interim CEO Thomas Kgokolo commented on the relaunch, stating,
“After months of diligent work, we are delighted that SAA is resuming service and we look forward to welcoming on board our loyal passengers and flying the South African flag. We continue to be a safe carrier and adhering to COVID-19 protocols.”
The airline says its initial flights will operate from Johannesburg to Cape Town, Accra, Kinshasa, Harare, Lusaka, and Maputo. It plans to restart more routes and expand its network as market conditions improve. Kgokolo added,
“There is a profound feeling of enthusiasm within Team SAA as we prepare for takeoff, with one common purpose – to rebuild and sustain a profitable airline that once again takes a leadership role among local, continental, and international airlines.”
Everything falling into place
Since exiting business rescue, SAA’s team has been hard at work getting the airline ready to restart operations. Earlier this month, the airline reported having secured its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) for both domestic and international flights, as reported in ch-aviation.com.
Today was a beautiful day. 🇿🇦😊🙏🏽👨🏽✈️
We brought our babies back home! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/4C6hMcTmPG
— Sibusiso Nxumalo (@FlyingZulu) August 12, 2021
Under the renewed AOC, SAA has listed just eight aircraft. Specifically, these are:
- Three A319-100s
- Two A320-200s
- One A330-300
- Two A340-600s
All these aircraft are leased apart from the two A340s, which SAA still owns. Fans of the quadjet will be pleased to see it making a return – both ZS-SNF and ZS-SNG will be back flying for the airline. This will make SAA one of the few airlines set to continue operating the four-engine Airbus after 2020 saw something of a cull of the type.
SNG taking off to do her test flight above Mafikeng.
I can't wait to book my flight 😭 pic.twitter.com/3pMoRP5GkX
— FlyZulu (@zulu_fly) August 19, 2021
Longer-term, the fleet is set to be a fair bit bigger than this. The business rescue plan that SAA emerged from administration with detailed a fleet of 26 aircraft. This was broken down into 10 small narrowbodies, nine narrowbodies, and seven widebodies. We can expect the airline to stick with an all-Airbus fleet, so we could see more A330s and possibly even A350s added on the widebody side. The narrowbody side will be accommodated by the A320 family of aircraft.
Interesting, however, is the notion of a ‘small narrowbody’ – indicative of perhaps regional aircraft of some sort. The main SAA has never had such aircraft, relying instead on SA Express and similar carriers to provide that regional connectivity. Perhaps we could see an order for the A220 or Embraer E-Jet from the airline in the future?