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South African airways returns to the skies after one year of inactivity

South African airways   -  
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South Africa

South African Airways announced last month that it had set a date (September 23rd) to resume operations. True to its word, SAA will relaunch today after a year of inactivity and almost 18 months without a commercial flight.

The carrier will initially offer flights from Johannesburg to Cape Town, Accra, Kinshasa, Harare, Lusaka and Maputo.

SAA has not flown any commercial flights since March 2020 and ceased all cargo and repatriation flights in September last year.

Interim CEO Thomas Kgokolo said, “After months of diligent work, we are delighted that SAA is resuming service and we look forward to welcoming onboard our loyal passengers and flying the South African flag. We continue to be a safe carrier and adhering to COVID-19 protocols.”

Tickets went on sale on August 26th and have sold well, according to the airline. According to Interim CEO Kgokolo, early figures indicate flights may be up to 75% full. Opening up other routes may prove to be a complication due to ongoing travel restrictions.

Kgokolo 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.”

The airline hasn’t operated any commercial flights since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. From that period until September 2020, the airline maintained cargo and repatriation flights but was forced to cease all operations due to financial problems.

After spending a period of 17 months in administration, SAA finally exited ‘business rescue‘ in April 2021, before the South African government agreed to sell its majority stake to Takatso Consortium in June.

New investors not yet involved

Takatso Consortium has confirmed it isn’t yet involved in the airline’s management or funding. Takatso, a joint venture between private-equity company Harith General Partners and Global Aviation, has yet to finalize its takeover almost three months after agreeing to a deal with South Africa’s Department of Public Enterprises (DPE). The consortium has promised to invest up to $243 million over the next three years.

Kgokolo said last week that SAA would need a modern fleet if it plans on being competitive outside of Africa. The airline’s current all-Airbus fleet has an average age exceeding 15 years.

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