South African Airways is Back on the Runway!

In September of 2021, South African Airways (SAA) relaunched operations after an 18-month grounding. In this next phase, the South African carrier discussed its plans to increase capacity on domestic and regional flight paths, at the recent IATA AGM in Doha. 


Further Information 

South African Airways
South African Airways is one of the leading and most experienced carriers in Africa | © Emmanuel Croset/AFP

It is no secret that SAA has definitely had its fair share of obstacles in the last few years. With rising domestic competition, pressure from international airlines, government bailouts and company restructuring, you could say they have seen it all. Following crippling structural and financial problems – which were before the pandemic – it would appear that the airline was now a mere shell of its former self. Nevertheless, it seems as though the airline has avoided being put out of business and continues to fly – even if that may only be to a few pan-African routes. 

 A Change for the Better?

After entering a formal Business Rescue restructure in December 2019 and takeover by the Takatso Consortium, South African Airways was operating 45 aircraft, with an additional 6 in storage. Following the pandemic grounding operations in early 2020, the airline would return 18 months later, with only 8 aircraft in their fleet to operate with. reported that South African Airways was utilising the Airbus A319 and A320.

According to, John Lamola, the SAA Interim Chief Executive, mentioned that SAA could have waited until July for the launch, but felt as though they could start small, with a conservative fleet and learn from previous mistakes.  Lamola also stated that the company “has gone through a necessary metamorphosis.”

John Lamola, Interim Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at South African Airways.
John Lamola, Interim Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at South African Airways.

It can also be said that SAA is looking to capitalise on the recent collapse of local airline Comair. In fact, in an interview with Bruce Whitfield earlier this month, Linden Birns, Managing Director of Plane Talking, stated that SAA was looking to ramp up its operations. It is clear that there is a lot of market share up for grabs – is this an opportunity that South African Airways will be able to take advantage of? 


In the past week, the airline has also announced its partnership with Discovery Bank, which will provide airport lounge access for its customers. This partnership allows customers to access refurbished lounges and upgraded services in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. Furthermore, the individual travelling experience is enhanced every time they fly, where customers can enjoy world-class amenities at the SAA lounges.  In its media release, John Lamola says:

“We appreciate the collaboration with Discovery and believe that this partnership will add to the customer experience when choosing SAA as your carrier of choice.” – John Lamola

The Future of South African Airways

While it is evident that SAA was heading down a slippery slope, it seems as though they might be flying towards success after all. Additionally, with the interest of maintaining their flying rights to the US, South African Airways might just bring some competition back to United and Delta. With an improving financial position, and global restrictions decreasing – the sky is the limit for the well-loved South African airline.

Do you think that South African Airways can stand the test of time? Let us know down in the comments!

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Tiegan Batchelor
Tiegan Batchelor
Aviation Reporter - An experienced journalist and copywriter, Tiegan has joined Travel Radar as an Aviation Reporter covering the latest news and insight. Previous contributions include to 'Along The Racing Line' and 'Shrap'



  1. Any idea when SAA might try flying out of Washington DC again. We will be flying to Joburg in December and would much rather give our business to SAA than fly Delta out of Atlanta…

    Thanks for the article!


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