South African Airways

South African Airways

South African Airways (SAA) is South Africa's national flag carrier airline. Rated by performance, flight routes covered and revenues, South African Airways is Africa's largest and best airline. Founded in 1934 after Union Airlines was acquired by the South African government, the airline is one of the oldest carriers in the country.

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About the airline

During the apartheid economic sanction years, South African Airways was also known by its Afrikaans name, "die Suid-Afrikaanse Lugdiens" or SAL, yet this has subsequently been dropped in favour of the English naming convention. The airline underwent a complete branding and livery make-over in 1997, when a brand new image and services such as online ticketing was introduced by the SAA board. During this process the old Sprinbok emblem, mirroring the old South African flag's colours, were phased out in favour of the modern South African Airways corporate identity.

During 2006 the airline split from Transnet, its former parent company, to operate as an independent entity. The airline has established links with other local airlines such as SAA Airlink and South African Express Airlines. South African Airways also owns Mango Airlines, a low cost South African airline that operates in the domestic flights market.

South African Airways is a member of the Star Alliance, the biggest airline alliance in the world. It is also the only South African Airline that's earned the prestigious Skytrax 4-star airline ranking. It's also earned the Skytrax best African Airline award for numerous years. South African Airways' headquarters are in Airways Park in Kempton Park, Gauteng. From this international hub, it flies to 38 domestic, regional and international locations.

Flight routes

The airline flies to over 38 destinations worldwide, with direct flights to international hubs such Mumbai, Buenos Aires and London. Additional destinations include Europe, China Ctonou, Benin, Abuja, Nigeria, Madagascar, the Republic of Congo, Burundi and Cameroon. It also flies to a range of regional destinations in African on a regular basis. To find about more about SAA's routes, click here.

Codeshare agreements

South African Airways has codeshare agreements with most of its Star Alliance partners. In addition, the airline also shares code with Airlink, Air Canada, Air India, Mauritius Airlines, Seychelles Airlines, Emirates Airlines, Jet Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Mango Airlines as well as Quantas Air, SA Express Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways.


Frequently accused of anti-competitive practices, and given successive and costly financial bail-outs by the South African government, South African Airways is no stranger to controversy. Several other South African airlines, including the likes of Flitestar Airlines, SunAir, Nationwide Airlines, and more recently Velvet Sky and 1time Airlines, have failed based on the fact that they couldn't compete on price with SAA, which seems to have particularly deep and government refilled pockets.

The airline has also been accused of racism, as it had rejected white cadet pilots on grounds of race, despite them having met the educational and physical criteria for acceptance.

The airline has also lost a number of executives in very short succession. The airline's financial situation is also currently the cause for the need for a turnaround strategy, which is currently being approved.

The South African Airways Fleet
As of 2012, SAA's fleet consists of over 50 Airbus and Boeing aircraft with an overage age of approximately 10 years per aircraft. To find about more about the SAA Fleet, click here.

Online Flight Bookings

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You can contact SAA Reservations on 0861 FLYSAA (0861 359722) from 06:00 to 22:00 daily. For more information, visit

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South African Airways
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