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Explained: Emirates’ Strong South African Growth

How the Middle East carrier expanded its presence in South Africa.

Emirates is the largest operator of Boeing 777-300ER aircraft with 134 jets in the fleet. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Zera)

Emirates has operated scheduled services to South Africa for almost three decades. The airline has established itself as a top choice for many travelers to and from the country. How did it achieve this?

Since the introduction of scheduled flights to South Africa over 29 years ago, Emirates has expanded operations, introduced innovative services, and formed strategic partnerships in the market.

Growth in the South African Market

Emirates currently operates 42 weekly flights between Dubai and South Africa. The airline introduced flights to South Africa in 1995. 

Initially, it operated only three flights a week between Dubai and Johannesburg. This has grown to three daily rotations.

The Dubai-based airline also introduced flights to Cape Town – in 2008 – and Durban – in 2009. It operates daily services on these routes.

Strategic Partnerships

Partnerships are key to Emirates’ expansion in South Africa. The airline has influenced South Africa’s travel landscape through strategic partnerships and collaborations.

One of its key collaborations includes a partnership with South African Tourism. Under the agreement, Emirates promotes South Africa as a destination, showcasing the country’s cultural heritage, natural beauty, and diverse attractions.

The carrier also has partnerships with various local airlines, enabling travelers to reach a large number of destinations in Southern Africa. It has codeshare agreements and interline partnerships with South African Airways, Airlink, Cemair, and low-cost airline FlySafair. 

Emirates’ collaborations with local airline partners have been pivotal for the airline’s growth in South Africa. They enable the Middle East carrier to reach nearly 60 regional destinations in Africa.

Expanded Reach

Emirates’ interline agreements with local airlines operating in South Africa enable improved connectivity for passengers flying with the Dubai-based carrier. 

With Cemair, Emirates passengers can access some of South Africa’s luxury travel destinations including Margate and Plettenberg Bay. An interline agreement with FlySafair enables passengers to reach various local domestic destinations, including Port Elizabeth, East London, and George. 

Emirates’ codeshare partnership with Airlink, provides seamless connectivity to 44 cities in the region via its three gateways. According to Bizcommunity, the carrier’s partnership with South African Airways dates back to 1997. It extends to Emirates’ loyalty program, enabling passengers to earn and redeem Skywards Miles on South African Airways flights.

Lorne Philipot


  • Lorne Philipot

    Lorne is a South Africa-based aviation journalist. He was captivated and fascinated by flying from the day he took his first airline flight. With a passion for aviation in his blood, he has flown to destinations in all corners of the globe. Lorne has traveled extensively and lived in various countries. Drawing on his travels and passion for aviation, Lorne enjoys writing about airlines, routes, networks, and new developments.

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