Airlink Breaks Away From South African Airways With New Name And Livery

South Africa’s privately-owned airline Airlink is ending its 23-year-old franchise agreement with South African Airways. The airline entered a strategic alliance with South African Airways in 1997. Today, the airline revealed its new stunning livery to match its rebranding.

Airlink new livery break from SAA
Airlink unveiled its new livery today as it breaks from South African Airways. Photo: Airlink

A new image

Airlink revealed its brand new livery today as it also unveiled it is dropping South African Airways from its name and moving to focus on its own operations. Airlink was previously partnered with South African Airways shortly after it was founded. The airline will now operate its fleet of 46 planes on regional routes across South Africa under its own flight code 4Z.

In a statement, the airline’s CEO and Managing Director Rodger Foster said,

We have flown that particular nest, and we are inviting our loyal and new customers to fly with us as Airlink expands its network, connecting and re-connecting people, communities, businesses, goods, and services with markets throughout Southern Africa and beyond.”

According to planespotter, the regional carrier operates a fleet of Embraer aircraft on routes connecting Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, and East London. Aside from its network connecting 15 of South Africa’s most popular tourist destinations, Airlink is looking to resume its operations to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana, Madagascar, and Eswatini. The resumption of routes will depend on the ever-changing travel restrictions.

new Airlink livery
The new livery features an African sunbird against a sunrise. Photo: Airlink

A new look

To go with the new name and the start of a new era, of course, Airlink has a brand-new livery. The beautiful design features an African Sunbird set against the colors of a sunrise. The design is a long way from the livery of its previous partner, South African Airways.

Although the design has now been unveiled, the airline will paint each of its aircraft in turn over the coming months to not interrupt its flight schedule. The downtime for each repainting will also be used to perform deep-maintenance overhauls on each plane. The first aircraft with the new look will take to the skies in a few weeks in time for the busy summer/Christmas holiday season.

Airlink was founded in 1992 as a regional airline. In 1997 it joined South African Airways (SAA) and South Africa Airways Express as a franchise in an agreement, which meant SAA passengers could travel on Airlink flights. The agreement was fairly successful, and Airlink and SAA benefitted.

South African Airways Aircraft
Airlink broke from its previous partner, South African Airways after it discovered the airline was withholding money from ticket sales. Photo: Getty Images

However, the partnership went sour earlier this year. Airlink discovered that SAA used revenue from tickets SAA sold on Airlink flights as working capital rather than being returned to Airlink. In protest, Airlink grounded operations, causing travel havoc, and filed with a court to have the money returned. The legal battle is ongoing and complicated further by SAA’s precarious financial position.

As a result, Airlink has decided to go its own way. With a slight name change and brand-new livery, the airline will take to the skies as a fully-independent airline. The airline claims that “Independence and freedom are Airlink’s core propositions.” Clearly, the future of Airlink is being defined as truly separate from SAA.

We think Airlink’s new livery is stunning, but what do you think? Are you excited to see the airline independent of South African Airways? Let us know in the comments.