- South African Airways makes its long-awaited return on 23 September.
- It's offering the cheapest flights from Johannesburg to Cape Town in stark contrast to its previous pricing model.
- The national carrier will be a leaner beast, operating a limited fleet with flights to seven destinations.
- Johannesburg to Cape Town is SAA's only domestic route, but it will fly to Accra, Kinshasa, Harare, Lusaka, and Maputo, where it will be pitted against an old friend.
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South African Airways (SAA) returns to the skies on 23 September after being grounded for more than a year. It returns as a much leaner airline, beating its competitors with the cheapest flights between Cape Town and Johannesburg.
South Africa's national carrier has remerged following a protracted business rescue process which followed years of serious financial losses and costly government bailouts. But the SAA which relaunches in late-September is a different incarnation of the national carrier which last flew in March and enters an industry ravaged by Covid-19.
For starters, the airline won't return as a purely state-owned enterprise, and has found a private equity partner – accounting for 51% of the national carrier – in Takatso Consortium. Where SAA used to fly to 20 destinations across six continents, it will now, operating a reduced fleet with a smaller number of pilots, only service seven destinations.
"More destinations will be added to the route network as it ramps up operations in response to market conditions," said SAA's Interim CEO Thomas Kgokolo on Wednesday.
SAA will only operate one domestic route – Africa's busiest – between Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport and Cape Town. It will also fly to Kinshasa, Harare, Lusaka, Maputo, and Accraon the African continent with plans to include Mumbai.
The national carrier's decline was hastened by the popularity of low-cost competitors like FlySafair and Kulula, which focused on servicing busy domestic routes using lean fleets without frills. By the time SAA entered business rescue, its fares were easily beaten by these domestic competitors. Re-entering the market, at a time when airline's have had to fight to stay afloat during the pandemic, SAA's ticket prices are now more competitive.
SAA returns with the cheapest flights from Joburg to Cape Town
In the case of its one-way flights from Johannesburg to Cape Town in the last week of September, SAA is more affordable than all other domestic airlines and is 5% cheaper than South Africa's newest airline, LIFT.
In operating flights to Harare in Zimbabwe and Maputo in Mozambique, SAA comes up against its old strategic partner, Airlink. Throughout the pandemic, Airlink has dominated regional air travel by increasing its flight frequencies on existing routes and flying to new destinations like Windhoek.
Airlink is still more affordable than SAA on flights to Harare and Maputo, but not by much. The difference is where SAA offers one daily flight to Harare, Airlink offers three. The same is true for flights to Maputo.
It's furthest flight currently available to book to Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana, is competitively priced with other regional airlines, like Ethiopian Airlines, which requires a stop-over less than three hours away in Addis Ababa. RwandAir and Kenya Airways, although cheaper than SAA, also have stopovers. SAA flies directly to Accra, giving it an edge in the regional market.
(Compiled by Luke Daniel)
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