By John Flett
South African Airways Adds Fleet Capacity As Demand Rises
South African Airways is to add a further three Airbus A320 aircraft to its fleet as operations continue to ramp up after the pandemic. The carrier restarted a significantly restricted schedule in September 2021 after the airline was grounded for 18 months from March 2020. Three Airbus A320 aircraft will all be in operation by the end of the calendar year in time for the South African summer holiday season.
The airline has been operating six regional and three domestic routes with two Airbus A320s, three Airbus A319s, an Airbus A330-300 and an Airbus A340-300. Demand has grown for its domestic services from Johannesburg to Harare, Zimbabwe and Cape Town, South Africa. The airline now operates the A330 on three of its weekly frequencies between Johannesburg and Harare, Zimbabwe.
SAA Chief Commercial Officer Tebogo Tsimane also noted, “SAA is replacing its A340-300 with a similar capacity aircraft and will exit the A319 fleet in 2023. As we increase fleet size to match the needs of the growing network schedule, we are encouraged that our strategy to cautiously re-enter markets abandoned due to the Covid pandemic has served us very well during the past twelve months, and we will continue to follow that cautious risk-adjusted trajectory.”
SAA has been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent years with significant losses prior to Covid-19 and a government-supported sale of a share of the airline. The Takatso Consortium was named as the ‘strategic equity partner’ (SEP) for SAA with a 51 percent controlling share and this transition is expected to be concluded by the end of March 2023.
The airline recently issued a statement reassuring customers that it would not be losing route rights after receipt of a letter in August from the Air Services Licensing Council (ASLC). The letter from the ASLC cited a few possible breaches of the Air Services Licensing Act No 115 of 1990 and directed SAA to provide certain information to afford the Council an opportunity to ascertain SAA’s compliance and/or non-compliance with the Act.
In reassuring customers, the airline divulged that the matters raised in the letter from the ASLC were ‘of an administrative nature relating to the SEP transaction that is currently being negotiated by the Government, as the shareholder as well as issues relating to SAA’s interaction with the ASLC, the submission of financial statements and internal staff movement.’
In acknowledging the one-year anniversary of the restart of SAA operations the Chairman of the Interim Board and CEO Professor John Lamola stated, “It has been a challenging but stimulating 12 months. We have been inspired by the fact that SAA has successfully been flying the national flag for 88 years surviving formidable historical turbulences, both economic and political. Thus we are firmly focused on rebuilding this airline and making South Africans proud.”