SAA expands regional operations, aims to return long-haul flights in Q1 2023

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South African Airways (SAA) has announced plans to expand its regional network across Southern Africa, with additional routes to be revealed “in the coming weeks”. The carrier also announced that it aims to relaunch its intercontinental operations during the first quarter of 2023. 

In a statement published on the airline’s website, SAA 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”. 

SAA will increase frequencies on its current domestic and regional networks, as part of its second phase of post-COVID restart operations, which commenced 13 months ago. This includes “increased frequencies to Accra in Ghana, Cape Town, Durban, Harare in Zimbabwe, Lusaka in Zambia, Mauritius and Kinshasa in the DRC,” the airline said.  

The airline is also preparing to restart international operations by launching its first post-COVID intercontinental route during the first quarter of 2023.  

SAA currently operates seven Airbus aircraft, including two A320s, three A319s, one A330-300 and one A340-300. The airline will add an additional three A320 narrowbodies and will exit its A319 fleet in 2023.  

South African Airways retains traffic rights to its historic routes  

Meanwhile, the International Air Services Council (IASC) has ruled that the flag carrier be allowed to retain its traffic rights to all of its historical routes.  

The IASC is part of South Africa’s Department of Transport, and is mandated under the International Air Services Licensing Act, which regulates and controls international air services in the country.  

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

The IASC cancelled SAA’s additional frequencies to Harare, Kinshasha, Mauritius, Lagos, Accra, Lusaka, and Luanda, Nairobi, Lilongwe, Blantyre, Victoria Falls, Windhoek, Entebbe, Livingstone.  

However, the regulatory body did not cancel the flag carrier’s routes to Dar es Salaam, Abuja, Maputo, Abidjan, Washington DC, New York, Frankfurt, Perth, London, and Sao Paulo, even though the airline had not been operating them.  

South African Airways entered business rescue on December 6, 2019, existing on April 30, 2021, having cut 80% of its workforce and slashing its fleet size by about 75%. The carrier restarted commercial operations on a much smaller scale in September 2021, with plans to grow both its fleet and route network.   

“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 month, and we will continue to follow that cautious risk-adjusted trajectory,” SAA Chief Commercial Officer Tebogo Tsimane said in a statement on October 12, 2022. 

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