Embattled national airline South African Airways confirmed on Wednesday that it will be back in the skies servicing the Johannesburg-Cape Town route and five other African regional destinations as of September 23, ahead of the Heritage Day long weekend.
The airline has effectively been grounded since late March last year, when the country went into a Covid-19 “hard lockdown” and SAA’s financial woes worsened amid the worst crisis for the aviation industry in its history.
With both international and local flights initially banned, all major local airlines and most major international airlines were force to ground flights.
Most of the local airlines have since recommenced flights in a stop-start fashion based on lockdown levels, but SAA has remained grounded in order to finalise its business rescue and the planned sale of a majority stake in the airline to a private consortium that includes Global Airways and Harith General Partners.
“The wait is finally over. In just under a month, the striking and familiar livery of SAA will once again be visible in the skies as the airline resumes operations,” SAA declared in a statement on Wednesday.
SAA noted that tickets will go on sale as of Thursday, August 26, 2021.
“After months of diligent work, we are delighted that SAA is resuming service and we look forward to welcoming on board our loyal passengers and flying the South African flag. We continue to be a safe carrier and adhering to Covid-19 protocols,” said interim SAA CEO Thomas Kgokolo.
According to SAA, it will as an initial phase operate flights from Johannesburg to Cape Town, Accra, Kinshasa, Harare, Lusaka and Maputo.
“More destinations will be added to the route network as it ramps up operations in response to market conditions,” it added.
“There is a profound feeling of enthusiasm within Team SAA as we prepare for takeoff, with one common purpose – to rebuild and sustain a profitable airline that once again takes a leadership role among local, continental, and international airlines,” said Kgokolo.
“The aviation sector is currently going through a testing period, and we are aware of the tough challenges that lie ahead in the coming weeks. We thank South Africa for the support we have received in getting us to where we are today. As we are now poised for takeoff, we see this as a major milestone for SAA and the country,” he added.
SAA’s board chairman John Lamola noted in the statement that since the national carrier came out of business rescue at the end of April 2021, the Department of Public Enterprises together with the board and the management team “have been seized with planning for the relaunching of a restructured and fit for purpose airline that South Africans can again be proud of”.
“The airline is restarting with a formidable business case,” added Lamola, without giving any further details of financials or the planned sale of a majority stake in the carrier to the Global Airways/ Harith General Partners consortium.