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Could SAA be up and flying again as soon as July?

South African Airways (SAA) has released a document indicating an intention to resume operations within the next two months.


Image: Adobe Stock

After officially exiting its lengthy business rescue process on 30 April, SAA has indicated it aims to resume scheduled flights from the beginning of July.   

According to the document seen by Fin24, the now liquid and solvent national carrier plans to take flight within the next two months. The document indicates that the airline intends to recommence domestic flights on 1 July.

ALSO READ: Business rescue finalised: SAA cleared for take-off


The national carrier’s interim CEO Thomas Kgokolo stated that his team would review the airline’s existing route network and focus on efficiencies within the company when restarting the airline.

“We need to look at routes that are profitable and sustainable and whether we are using the latest aircraft in terms of technology and fuel efficiency,” Kgokolo told the Daily Maverick.


Kgokolo stated that the airline would be restarting its route network in stages, beginning with  domestic and regional flight schedules before returning to international routes.

“We will do a staggered restart by first starting with domestic and regional flights,” Kgokolo said.

It seems that SAA has selected destinations where operations are possible and where demand exists. The airline appears to have avoided routes where there is an oversupply of seats by competitors who have already established a presence while SAA was grounded.


The document seen by Fin24 indicates that SAA intends to start up its domestic flight schedule from the beginning of July this year.

The airline will operate a small internal route network with flights on just three routes from Johannesburg.  South African Airways intends to operate scheduled services between Johannesburg and Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town and Johannesburg and Gqeberha from 1 July.


According to Fin24, the airline will offer flights from its Johannesburg hub to Maputo (Mozambique), Windhoek (Namibia), Harare (Zimbabwe), Lusaka (Zambia), Lilongwe and Blantyre (Malawi), Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), Accra (Ghana) and Lagos (Nigeria).

SAA has dropped numerous destinations from its previous route network. Destinations, such as the Victoria Falls, Livingstone and Luanda, have been excluded. Services are being provided by private carriers including Cemair (Luanda), Airlink (Livingstone), Fastjet and British Airways operated by Comair (Victoria Falls).


The airline no longer has suitable aircraft in its fleet to be able to operate profitable services to several destinations in its proposed domestic and regional route networks.   SAA will need to acquire additional aircraft to operate flights to most of these destinations. 

SAA’s rescue practitioners returned the airline’s leased aircraft to aircraft lessors last year, leaving the carrier with a fleet of nine wide-body aircraft which were deployed primarily on the airline’s intercontinental routes. These aircraft are older Airbus A340 models that few airlines still operate as they are not fuel efficient.


SAA’s former top international routes included destinations such as London, New York, Frankfurt and Perth. The airline used its wide-body Airbus A340 aircraft amongst others, on these routes.

While several governments have imposed flight and entry bans on South Africa, there would be no point in resuming flights to most of SAA’s international routes in the foreseeable future. Low passenger volumes would simply translate into more financial losses.    


Now that the airline’s business rescue process is officially over and since R2.7bn has been prioritised for SAA’s embattled subsidiaries (Mango, Air Chefs and SAA Technical – to avoid the total collapse of these entities), the return of South African Airways to the skies is dependent on the airline acquiring a strategic equity partner who will inject much-needed cash into the airline.