Africa’s aviation growth is not occurring evenly. Consider South African Airways, which did not fix long-running inefficiencies as former partner Airlink and low-cost airline FlySafair have rapidly expanded around the Southern Africa region.
It is too late for SAA to return to its former growth trajectory; however, the airline is eyeing service resumption to key regional and intercontinental routes to be announced in the coming weeks, a sign of better times for the Star Alliance airline.
SAA will be introducing flights to Blantyre and Lilongwe in Malawi, Windhoek in Namibia, and Victoria Falls, in Zimbabwe before the start of the festive season, together with increased frequencies to Accra in Ghana, Cape Town, Durban, Harare in Zimbabwe, Lusaka in Zambia, Mauritius and Kinshasa in the DRC, these changes represent the second phase of SAA’s post-Covid restart operations which commenced thirteen months ago.
This announcement by the airline comes as the Air Services Council (ASLC) ruled that the South African flag carrier be allowed to retain its traffic rights to all of its historical routes after the airline voluntarily reduced frequencies on the destinations not serviced.
Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Professor John Lamola, says “SAA, as a buoyant national airline, has an important enabling role in the South African economy. Those routes and frequency licenses that are not part of SAA’s medium-term plans will progressively be released to the IASLC for the benefit of the industry.”
The ASLC is part of South Africa’s Department of Transport, and is mandated under the International Air Services Licensing Act, which regulates and controls international air services in the country. In accordance with legislated and prescribed procedures SAA meets with the IASLC on a quarterly basis to review and justify its route network plan and traffic rights to destinations it is not yet flying to.
In September 2022, the IASC cancelled SAA’s flight frequencies on some routes due to inactivity for a period of more than three months. The affected routes were flights to Harare, Kinshasha, Mauritius, Lagos, Accra, Lusaka, and Luanda, Nairobi, Lilongwe, Blantyre, Victoria Falls, Windhoek, Entebbe, Livingstone.
However, the regulatory body did not cancel the flag carrier’s routes to Dar es Salaam, Abuja, Maputo, Abidjan, Washington DC, New York, Frankfurt, Perth, London, and Sao Paulo, even though the airline had not been operating them.