What Happened To South African Airways’ Boeing 737 Aircraft?

South African Airways historically made much use of the Boeing 737 aircraft series. From taking its first deliveries in 1968 until its last in 2016, over 50 of the aircraft have been used to fly passengers or cargo for the South African flag carrier. With the last of its fleet flying cargo, Simple Flying has looked into what happened to its commercial aviation aircraft through the years.

What Happened To South African Airways’ Boeing 737 Aircraft?
SAA’s 737 fleet has been ever-present since 1968, though the ast few years have seen the aircraft used for cargo. Photo: G B_NZ via Flickr


SAA 737 fleet history

South African Airways have flown Boeing 737 aircraft since its first delivery of two 737-200 aircraft in October of 1968. The 737-200 aircraft were flown until 2013 when the last ones were moved on to Africa Charter Airline.

These were a mainstay of the airline, until obtaining the next generation Boeing 737-800 series of aircraft in June 2000, flying these until 2018 before retiring its services. In 2007, the airline took delivery of its first Boeing 737-300 aircraft, using these in a cargo configuration. It currently flies three 737-300 cargo planes as the last remnants of its 737 fleet.


SAA took delivery of 38 Boeing 737-200 aircraft between 1968 and 2013. Its first deliveries came in the form of ZS-SBL and ZS-SBM in order to supplement its 727 fleet, as older aircraft were retired. It came at a time when SAA was seeing significant growth and had already reached the 1 million passenger mark. Its last delivery took place in 2006, when it received ZS-SID. ZS-SID was the last 737-200 to be released, making its way to Africa Charter Airline in 2013 under the same registration.

The destinations for the 737-200 aircraft, according to Air Fleets, was:

  • Comair – 5 aircraft between 1992 and 2003
  • Safair – 5 aircraft between 2003 and 2006
  • TANS – 3 aircraft moved in 2005
  • Air Namibia – 3 aircraft between 1989 and 2004
  • The rest of the aircraft made it to: United Air Leasing, Royal Swazi, LAPA, TEA UK, Transair Congo, Air Tanzania, Air Atlantis, VASP, Air Comores, Africa Charter Airline, Zambian Airways, LAN Chile, Albarka Air, Community Airlines, and South African Airlink respectively.


South African Airways took delivery of its first Boeing 737-300 aircraft in August 2007, and its last in June 2016. All three of these aircraft are in use as cargo planes, and they fly under the registrations ZS-SBA, ZS-SBB, and ZS-TGG.

What Happened To South African Airways’ Boeing 737 Aircraft?
South African Airways currently operate three B737 aircraft in a cargo configuration. Photo: Bob Adams via Flickr


In July 2000 the first Next Generation Boeing 737-800 was delivered as ZS-SJA, with twenty-one of the type ordered initially to replace both the Airbus A300 and A320 aircraft. SAA took delivery of its last 737-800 in 2006. None of these aircraft are currently seeing service with the South African flag carrier, with its last 737-800 moving to Safair in 2018. In total, 32 of these would see service with SAA, before moving to the following destinations:

  • Mango – 16 aircraft between 2006 and 2018.
  • Transavia Airlines – 9 aircraft between 2001 and 2006.
  • Excel Airways – 2 aircraft between 2003 and 2004.
  • Firefly – 2 aircraft in 2011.
  • Safair – 3 aircraft between 2016 and 2018. It was also the final destination for SAA’s last 737 passenger carrier, ZS-SJU.

The replacements

The Boeing 737 fleet of South African Airways were steadily replaced during its modernization program, starting in the early 2000s. The Airbus A320 and A340 aircraft were ordered to take the place of the 737s, with the first A340 delivered in January of 2003. The SAA fleet is currently dominated by Airbus aircraft as the only carrier of passengers.

What Happened To South African Airways’ Boeing 737 Aircraft?
SAA began replacing its Boeing 737 aircraft with Airbus A320 and A340 aircraft from the early 2000s. Photo: Andy Mitchell via Flickr

The three lonesome 737 cargo planes still provide a throwback to the Boeing days.