Finally! SAA sets date for restart of intercontinental flights
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SAA latest: National carrier ready to stand on its own feet in 2022?

South African Airways (SAA) is unlikely to require further financial assistance in the form of government handouts in the coming year.


Finally! SAA sets date for restart of intercontinental flights
Image: Adobe Stock

It has been over three months since the relaunched South African Airways (SAA) returned to the skies with scheduled flight operations.

In a recent interview with Moneyweb’s Fifi Peters, SAA chief commercial officer Simon Newton-Smith said that South African Airways was weathering the current storm the aviation sector is facing and that the airline would be unlikely to need financial support from the state next year.

“It is exactly three months since we started flying again and everything has been going to plan, ahead of plan. But, COVID has been a fly in the ointment for most travellers and airlines this year. Yes, we are obviously being impacted and we are adjusting appropriately,” Newton-Smith told Moneyweb.   


The national carrier has responded to current events brought on by the discovery of the Omicron variant by adjusting its scheduled flight operations. This is in order to prevent the airline from wasting its finances by flying empty planes.

“We’re literally looking at the data on a day-by-day basis and we’re trying to strike a balance, obviously getting people where they want to go. But, where the flights have got low demand we’ve been making some decisions about consolidating flights in advance of departure.

SAA chief commercial officer Simon Newton-Smith

“I’m pleased to say that one of the data points that we measure every day is a thing called ‘completion rate’ – how many flights we say that we’re going to operate, and then how many we actually operate.”

Newton-Smith said that South African Airways’ completion rate since it restarted operations is currently sitting at 99.7%.

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The relaunched national carrier is trying to do things differently so that it does not become a burden on the taxpayer through continued financial dependency on the state. The airline’s management is aware of SAA’s need to act responsibly and with transparency.

SAA is committed to not leaving its passengers high and dry by cancelling flights at the last minute, causing endless frustrations to passengers who turn up at airports only to discover that they have no flight.  

“One of the commitments that we made as an airline when we restarted is that changing the flying programme, changing the schedules, is a normal part of airline life. But, from a customer perspective, what you don’t want is a change happening on the day and you are left stranded at the airport waiting for another flight,” he said.

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Large amounts of funding have traditionally been allocated to South African Airways in the National Budget which is announced in February each year.

Newton-Smith said that SAA would be unlikely to require financial assistance from the state for the coming year.

“I’m very confident that when we set the budgets for next year, and as we see a recovery overall in demand, with our commitment to be sustainable, we will be able to deliver,” he said.  

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