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South African Airways to Reintroduce Historical Routes, Plans for Intercontinental Flights in 2023

A South African Airways A340 pushing back at Washington Dulles International Airport (Photo: Ben Suskind | AirlineGeeks)

South African Airways has plans to expand its regional network across Southern Africa, with additional routes to be revealed, “in the coming weeks.” The airline will also be relaunching its intercontinental operations during the first quarter of 2023.

The announcement comes after the country’s International Air Services Council ratified all of the airline’s historical route traffic rights, following the airline voluntarily relinquishing the number of frequencies on the destinations not currently served.

Since SAA restarted its operations more than a year ago, it has struggled to get off the ground. It lost rights to 20 of its international destinations as they had not been served by the airline since March 2020.

The IASC ruled that the flag carrier be allowed to retain its traffic rights to all of its historical routes. The IASC — part of South Africa’s Department of Transport — is mandated under the International Air Services Licensing Act, which regulates and controls international air services in the country.

According to South Africa’s International Air Services Act, an international license is conditional on an air service not being interrupted for three months or longer, as determined by the IASLC. Airlines must commence or continue with an air service within 12 months from when the license was issued or amended.

In September 2022, the IASC canceled SAA’s flight frequencies on some routes due to inactivity for more than three months, according to News24.

The routes include frequencies to Harare, Zimbabwe; Kinshasha, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Mauritius; Lagos; Accra, Ghana; Lusaka, Zambia; Luanda, Angola; Nairobi; Lilongwe, Malawi; Blantyre, Malawe; Victoria Falls, Tanzania; Windhoek, Namibia; Entebbe, Uganda and Livingstone, Zambia.

In a statement published on the airline’s website, the airline confirmed plans to introduce “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, Cape Town, Durban, Harare, Lusaka, Mauritius and Kinshasa, these changes represent the second phase of the airline’s post-Covid-19 restart operations which commenced thirteen months ago.

Return to Long-haul Flights in 2023

South African Airways Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Lamola said the ariline met with the IASLC every quarter to review and justify its route network plan and existing traffic rights.

Routes and frequency licenses that were not part of the carrier’s medium-term plans would progressively be released to the IASLC.

While in business rescue, South African Airways managed to hang onto its international route rights partly because the IASLC was defunct for 12 months as Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula delayed its re-appointment – a move criticized as protectionism and which held up regional expansion plans of SAA’s privately-owned competitors.

According to ch-Aviation, Lamola last month said that SAA would double its leased fleet to 12 aircraft by April 2023 as part of a fleet and intercontinental route expansion plan to be implemented from November 2022 – irrespective of a delay or even indefinite postponement of its current strategic equity partnership deal with the Takatso Consortium.

After more than a year of negotiations, the transaction is now being examined by the country’s competition regulators.

By April, the fleet would consist of 10 Airbus A320-200s and one Airbus A330-300, Lamola said, with another wide-body still to be determined depending on which intercontinental routes the airline decides to re-enter first. Routes being considered include London; Perth, Australia and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Victor Shalton


  • Victor Shalton

    Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Victor’s love for aviation goes way back to when he was 11-years-old. Living close to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, he developed a love for planes and he even recalls aspiring to be a future airline executive for Kenya Airways. He also has a passion in the arts and loves writing and had his own aviation blog prior to joining AirlineGeeks. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration at DeKUT and aspiring to make a career in a more aviation-related course.

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