SAA flights to Mauritius
(Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
  • South African Airways will stop flying to Mozambique’s Maputo from 1 December due to low demand.
  • The airline has also lowered its expectations of Zambia, choosing to operate five weekly flights, instead of seven.
  • But its plan to resume a 23-year relationship with Nigeria by flying directly to Lagos is still on track.
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South African Airways (SAA) will stop its daily return flight schedule between Johannesburg and Mozambique’s Maputo on 1 December. Its plan to resume direct services to Lagos on 12 December is still on track.

South Africa’s national carrier returned to the skies in late-September after being grounded for almost 18 months because of the Covid-19 pandemic and a bitter business rescue process which followed years of financial decline.

The leaner airline restarted with seven destinations, including only a single domestic route between Johannesburg and Cape Town. And while the takeover deal with preferred equity partner Takatso Consortium is still to be finalised, SAA has been slowly expanding its reach to other parts of the world.

SAA resumes its flights to Mauritius this week, operating twice weekly on Wednesdays and Sundays. The airline also recently announced that it would resume direct flights between Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport and Lagos in Nigeria in mid-December.

“This specific destination [Lagos] takes SAA into one of the biggest travel markets in Africa and we’re delighted that we are again able to resume operations, providing a link between Africa’s two biggest economies,” said SAA’s interim CEO Thomas Kgokolo, adding that the airline had a 23-year relationship with Nigeria.

Interest in flights to Mauritius, which ended its ban on South African travellers in October, has also surged, according to SAA’s chief commercial officer, Simon Newton-Smith.

But not all SAA’s routes are successful. Flights to Maputo, where it competes directly with one-time ally Airlink, have performed poorly.

With low passenger volumes showing little signs of improving over December and January, SAA has taken the decision to pull its Maputo service. SAA ticketholders will be re-accommodated on codeshare flights operated by Mozambique Airlines (LAM).

“When SAA resumed operations at the end of September, we committed to constantly monitor passenger volumes and revenue on all routes,” said Newton-Smith.

“Demand on this service has not met expectations and for the time being, this change is in line with our strategy of being a transparent management and fiscally responsible.”

Other changes to SAA’s schedule include return flights to Accra in Ghana - not operating on 25 December and 1 January 2022. Flights to Kinshasa will not operate on 24 and 31 December.

The airline had initially aimed to increase its flight frequency to the capital of Zambia, Lusaka, to 7 days a week from December, but these plans have also changed. SAA will, instead, operate five weekly flights to Lusaka from 1 December.

“No airline likes to cancel flights, but we are committed to success and sustainability of our airline, whilst we meet our valued customer requirements,” said Newton-Smith.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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