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.

Book your South African Airways flights now

Find out more about the this SA airline below, or book your South African Airways tickets using the above form above; search, compare and save now!

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.

The South African Airways Fleet

South African Airways operates the following fleet:

  • Airbus A330-300
  • Airbus A330-200
  • Airbus A340-300/600
  • Airbus A320-200
  • Airbus A319-100

In September 2017 it was announced that SAA would need to cut its fleet in order to return to profitability. The airline retired 5 of its narrow-body aircraft, reducing flights by 23% in order to comply with its turnaround strategy. The airline still operates the largest fleet in Africa, but is loss-making.

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.

Flight classes available when booking flights with SAA

When flying with South African Airways, passengers can choose between the following classes:

  • Business class: on long haul flights, business class passengers are welcomed with a refreshing drink and provided with an amenity bag packed with travel essentials and cosmetics. There is a full menu and wine list available, charging ports and flat beds for a good night’s rest. On short haul flights passengers are treated to extra comfy seats with leg rests and an assortment of beverages.
  • Economy class: on long haul flights, economy class passengers can expect extra legroom and a few added comforts such as socks, eyeshades, toothbrush and toothpaste. Short haul flights offer slim line seats and movable head rests for added comfort.

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.

While the airline's financial situation was a serious cause of concern for the implementation of a new turnaround strategy, the state-owned entity lost a number of executives in very short succession, with a number of new appointments announced early 2018.

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.

Latest SAA Awards

South African Airways has received numerous awards and acknowledgements over the years. Some of the latest awards received by the airline include:


  • Skytrax: 4-star Skytrax (16th year running)
  • Apex Regional Passenger Choice Awards: Best seat comfort, best cabin service, best food and beverage, and best overall in Africa


  • Business Traveler Magazine: Best airline in Africa (9th year running)
  • Global Traveler: Best Airline to Africa (14th year running)
  • Magellan Awards: Gold awards for airline marketing and tour operators marketing, silver awards for tour operator marketing and overall international carrier
  • Sunday Times: Coolest domestic airline
  • Skytrax: 4-star Skytrax (15th year running)

Online Flight Bookings

Get the very cheapest flights in South Africa on carriers such as SAA, Mango, Kulula and more, courtesy of theTravelstart state of the art online flights booking system.You can make your own South African Airways reservations within minutes and save substantially on your SAA flights.

Follow South African Airways on Google+

Click here to follow South African Airways on Google+


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

SA Airlines. flights booked fast, cheap and simply.

SAA Rating

Based on 63 votes

Click to rate SAA