South African Airways – SAA
Skytrax rating: 4 stars | Star Alliance member
- 30 destinations (strong coverage of Africa)
- Comprehensive domestic coverage
South African Airways (SAA) is the national parastatal (nationalised or state-owned) airline of the Republic of South Africa and carries the national flag on its planes. It has historically enjoyed a monopolistic position in the passenger aviation industry, and by the end of the Apartheid regime it had a 95% market share. Since 1991, however, rival domestic airlines have diluted SAA’s presence, and SAA itself has also delivered some dubious financial results and has also faced the criticism that as a nationalised carrier it is being bankrolled by taxpayers (i.e. other domestic airlines). SAA is also in the peculiar position of competing with its own subsidiary, Mango Air, in the domestic carrier market, albeit that Mango is a low-cost airline. Even so, SAA remains South Africa’s largest domestic airline by passenger numbers (and that by a long way) and its ticket prices are in line with those of the other airlines.
SAA operates a fleet of 56 aircraft of varying descriptions, since it has to service both domestic and international routes. SAA operates a relatively small fleet by international standards and also does not service nearly as many routes as other airlines of the world. Traditionally, there has simply not been the demand to do so. During Apartheid, international travel was difficult for citizens of South Africa, with most people in the country barred from leaving its borders, and some foreign countries were averse to granting visas to those who were not. The proportion of people in South Africa who have overseas connections and who are able to afford international air travel is also relatively small.
In addition to its Star Alliance partners, SAA also has code-share agreements with several airlines. They are:
- Air Mauritius
- El Al
- JetBlue Airways
- LAM Mozambique Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines (Oneworld – Future)
- Qantas (Oneworld)
- Saudi Arabian Airlines (SkyTeam – Future)
- Virgin Atlantic Airways
- Mango (subsidiary domestic airline)
SAA provides coverage of many destinations in Africa, which is almost like a speciality for the airline. If you are planning on travelling by air in Africa you are advised to contact us so that we may advise you on making use of SAA. Keep in mind that SAA is a Skytrax 4-star airline, which is, for example, a higher rating than any of the North American carriers.
SAA is currently undergoing an expansion of its international routes, including a proposed flight to Beijing in China, as well as new routes in Africa to Cotonou (Benin), Abuja (Nigeria), Madagascar, Republic of Congo, Cameroon and Burundi.