South African Airways Expands Operations with Leased Boeing 737s and New Abidjan Route

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South African Airways (SAA) is making headlines with significant developments in its efforts to rebuild and expand its operations. The airline, which has been on a path to recovery, is set to enhance its services with the leasing of two Boeing 737-800 aircraft from Sun Express and the introduction of a new route to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

Leasing Boeing 737s from Sun Express

In a bid to meet the surging demand for domestic travel during the upcoming southern summer, South African Airways has entered into a temporary lease agreement with Sun Express, the Turkish-German holiday airline. This lease arrangement involves two Boeing 737-800 aircraft, which will be in operation for several months, the airline confirmed to CH-Avition.

The first of these Sun Express aircraft is scheduled to take flight on October 20th, continuing its service until March 31st. Subsequently, the second aircraft will begin operations on November 16th, also continuing until March 31st. These Boeing 737s are earmarked to connect key South African cities, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban, addressing the high demand for travel within the country, according to a report by the airline.

Expanding to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

Meanwhile, the South African flag carrier has announced its plans to expand its African footprint with the addition of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, as its 12th African destination. The airline will operate this route via Accra, Ghana, utilizing its Airbus A330-300 aircraft.

South African Airways ZS-SXI Airbus A330-343 source: Flickr

Bookings for this new route opened on September 28, 2023, with the inaugural flight from Johannesburg to Abidjan set for Tuesday, November 14, 2023. The service will operate three times a week, departing from Johannesburg on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 11:00 and arriving in Abidjan at 17:00, with a brief 55-minute layover in Accra.

SAA’s entry into this market positions it alongside Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, and Air Côte d’Ivoire, who already provide services on this route. Notably, SAA aims to set itself apart by offering a shorter flight duration of just six hours with a stop in Accra, promising a more efficient travel option for passengers.

SAA’s Chief Commercial Officer, Tebogo Tsimane, expressed excitement about the new route, highlighting its importance in the airline’s West Africa expansion strategy. He also noted that the flight schedule caters to both leisure and business travelers while offering SAA Voyager members additional opportunities to earn miles.

Furthermore, this new route will facilitate airfreight connections between Accra, Abidjan, and Johannesburg, enhancing trade links between these major cities and the broader SAA network.

Interim CEO, Professor John Lamola, emphasized the significance of this expansion, highlighting Abidjan’s strategic location on the West Coast of Africa as an ideal hub for connecting traffic to European destinations. He also stressed the airline’s commitment to sustainability and rigorous analysis in its strategic decisions.

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