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South African Airways to restart regional flights from September

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 8/26/2021 Ben Smithson
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In a small but significant step toward the return of normal international travel, South African Airways will restart commercial flights from Sep. 23 for the first time in more than a year — but only within the African continent.

The airline has long struggled to be profitable, particularly on long-haul routes where it’s faced fierce competition from Middle Eastern carriers such as Emirates and Qatar Airways. The airline has also received hundreds of millions of dollars in the form of local government bailouts and debt guarantees.

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Before the pandemic, South African Airways operated flights to such major international hubs as New York-JFK, London (LHR) and Frankfurt (FRA).

Flights to Hong Kong (HKG), Munich (MUC) and São Paulo (SAO) were cut before the pandemic even began.

Related: Where’s the menu? A review of South African Airways biz class on the A350, New York to Johannesburg


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South African aviation regulators have now restored the Star Alliance members’ operating license, allowing it to rebuild some of its route network. The airline is starting slowly with flights from its Johannesburg (JNB) hub to Cape Town (CPT), Accra (ACC), Kinshasa (FIH), Harare (HRE), Lusaka (LUN) and Maputo (MPM).

The airline had previously been majority-owned by the South African government, though in June 2021 a majority take was sold to a local jet-leasing company, Global Airways, and private-equity firm Harith General Partners.

If you’re hoping to see South African Airways return to long-haul flying, the airline is taking a “wait and see” approach — as is the case with international travel in general. The new owners have confirmed the South African government has no more financial obligations to the airline, and that route networks will be further restored when, and if, demand recovers following the coronavirus pandemic.

Ticket sales for the resumed regional routes are now on sale.

Featured image by JT Genter / The Points Guy

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