South African Airways

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South African Airways
South African Logo.svg
IATA
SA
ICAO
SAA
Callsign
SPRINGBOK
Founded 1 February 1934 (1934-02-01)
Hubs OR Tambo International Airport
Focus cities Cape Town International Airport
Frequent-flyer program Voyager
Airport lounge
  • Cycad First Class Lounge[1]
  • Baobab Premium Class Lounge[2]
Alliance Star Alliance
Subsidiaries Mango
Fleet size 55
Destinations 42
Company slogan Africa's Most Awarded Airline
Parent company Government of South Africa
Headquarters OR Tambo International Airport
Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, South Africa
Key people Monwabisi Kalawe (CEO)[3]
Revenue IncreaseR27,1 billion (2012/13 FY)[4]
Operating income DecreaseR60 million (2012/13 FY)[5]
Profit DecreaseR-991 million Loss (2012/13 FY)[4]
Total assets DecreaseR14,044 million (2009/10 FY)[6]:37
Website flysaa.com

South African Airways (SAA) is the national flag carrier and largest airline of South Africa, with headquarters in Airways Park on the grounds of OR Tambo International Airport in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, Gauteng. The airline flies to 38 destinations worldwide from its hub at OR Tambo International Airport, using a fleet of 54 aircraft. The airline is headed by CEO Monwabisi Kalawe.[3]

South African Airways was founded in 1934 after the acquisition of Union Airways by the South African government. The airline was initially overseen and controlled by South African Railways and Harbours Administration. Sanctions by African countries which would have otherwise provided stopover airports during apartheid forced it to adopt long-range aircraft and other measures to counter these restrictions. During this time, it was also known by its Afrikaans name, Suid-Afrikaanse Lugdiens (SAL), which has been dropped. In 1997 a major overhaul programme, which involved a change of name, image and aircraft livery, as well as the introduction of online ticketing services, was carried out by the company's board. The carrier has since joined airline alliance Star Alliance, and replaced its fleet with newer aircraft. In 2006, SAA split from Transnet, its parent company, to operate as an independent airline.

SAA is the official airline of the Association of Tennis Professionals. SAA owns Mango, a low cost domestic airline, and has established links with Airlink and South African Express.

Furthermore, SAA is currently one of only two African airlines to be classified with the prestigious 4-star airline ranking from Skytrax.[7] In addition, SAA has also celebrated being recognized as Africa's Best Airline during the Skytrax World Airline Awards for many years.[8][9]

History[edit]

Formation and early years[edit]

SAA started operations with a number of acquired Union Airways planes, including the Junkers F.13, similar to the one pictured

South African Airways was formed on 1 February 1934 following the acquisition of Union Airways by the South African government. Forty staff members, along with one de Havilland DH.60 Gypsy Moth, one de Havilland 80A Puss Moth, three Junkers F.13s and a leased Junkers F13 and Junkers A50 were among the acquired.[10] Upon acquisition, the government changed the airline's name to South African Airways.[11] came under control of the South African Railways and Harbours Administration (now Transnet).[12][13] Charter operations started that year.[14] On 1 February the following year, the carrier acquired South West African Airways,[10] which had since 1932 been providing a weekly air-mail service between Windhoek and Kimberley.[13] During this time, South African ordered three Junkers Ju 52/3m aircraft, which were delivered in October 1934 and entered service 10 days later.[10] These aircraft were configured to carry 14 passengers, along with four crew. They enabled services thrice-weekly Durban–Johannesburg, with weekly services on the DurbanEast LondonPort Elizabeth–George/Mossel BayCape Town route.[10] On 1 July 1935, SAA moved its operations to Rand Airport as it became increasingly obvious that Johannesburg would become the country's aviation hub, which coincided with the launching of Rand–Durban–East London–Port Elizabeth–Cape Town services.[10] From July the following year a weekly Rand–Kimberley–Beaufort West–Cape Town service commenced; in April A936, all Rand–Cape Town services were taken over from Imperial Airways.[10] A fourth Ju 52/3m shortly joined the fleet.

Orders for a further 10 Ju 52/3m, along with eighteen Junkers Ju 86 and seven Airspeed Envoys (four for the airline and three for the South African Air Force) were placed.[10] This raised the number of Ju 52 to fourteen, although three older models were sold when deliveries of the newer Ju 52s began.[10] The airline experienced a rapid expansion during this time, but also suffered its first accident; one of the newly delivered Ju 52s crashed after takeoff from Rand Airport in July 1937, with one reported fatality.[10] From 1 February 1934 until the start of World War II, SAA carried 118,822 passengers, 3,278 tonnes of airmail and 248 tonnes of cargo, which were served by 418 employees.[10] On 24 May 1940, all operations were suspended.[15] In order to provide credible maritime patrol operations, the SAAF took over all 29 of South African Airways' passenger aircraft: eighteen Junkers JU-86Z-l's to be used in the maritime patrol role and eleven Junkers Ju 52's for transport purposes.[citation needed]

Following the war, frequencies were increased and more routes were opened, which necessitated the conversion of three South African Air Force Envoys to passenger layout.[10] These aircraft would prove to be unsuitable for passenger and cargo services, so were returned to the SAAF after the arrival of the Junkers Ju 86s.

Growth: 1946–1952[edit]

The Douglas DC-4 Skymaster was introduced in May 1946, on which SAA's first in-flight films were shown. This aircraft, registration ZS-AUB, is in Berlin. (May 2000)

On 10 November 1945, the airline introduced its first inter-continental service, the 3-day Springbok Service, operated by the Avro York, which was routed Palmietfontein–NairobiKhartoumCairo–Castel Benito–Hurn Bournemouth.[10] A weekly service was initially flown, but this later increased to 6 times weekly due to high passenger demand. The Douglas DC-4 Skymaster debutted with SAA in May 1946 between Johannesburg and Cape Town, which coincided with the introduction of the Douglas DC-3 Dakota on the Johannesburg–Durban route.[10]

From 1946, a sharp increase in passengers and cargo carried were experienced, along with the size of SAA's fleet, with the corresponding increase in staff. As the Skymasters arrived, out went the Avro Yorks back to BOAC.[10] Air hostesses were introduced in September 1946, at first on domestic routes, then on Springbok Services. The two de Havilland Doves were introduced at the end of the year; these aircraft were utilised on internal services for a short time, and were sold within a few years.[10] The 28-seater Vickers Viking also served the airline, albeit for a short period, before being sold to British European Airways.

SAA Lockheed Constellation arriving at Heathrow in 1953

Palmietfontein Airport became SAA's hub after taking over from Rand Airport in 1948. This was among a host of changes made by the airline regarding its operations and services during the year; the other notable improvement was the showing of films onboard its Skymaster aircraft in June.[10]

SAA received four Lockheed Constellations in August 1950. These were the airline's first pressurised aircraft and were quickly introduced on the scheduled service to London's Heathrow airport. Initially the route from Johannesburg was flown via Nairobi, Khartoum and Rome. The Constellation's higher speed and longer range enabled fewer stops and greatly reduced the flying time to London.[16]

The Jet Age: 1953–1973[edit]

A South African Airways Boeing 707 in former orange, blue and white livery in the background at London Heathrow Airport, parked next to a BOAC Vickers VC10.
A SAA Boeing 707 sits alongside BOAC's Vickers VC10 at London Heathrow. (1977)

The jet age arrived in South Africa on 3 May 1952 when a BOAC de Havilland Comet arrived in Palmietfontein after a 24-hour journey with 5 refuelling stops en route. South African chartered two Comets from the British airline; SAA made history by becoming the first airline outside the UK on 4 October 1953, when Comet G-ANAV left London for Johannesburg.[10] On the same day Tourist Class was introduced on the 58-seater Lockheed Constellation on the Springbok Service. The two chartered aircraft sported both BOAC and SAA titles and logos but were operated by South African's crew.

In 1956 South African Airways introduced the Douglas DC-7B, probably the fastest piston-engine airliner in the world and with a decent range. SAA exploited the aircraft's performance by introducing it on Johannesburg–London with only one stop at Khartoum.[10] This was known as the East Coast express, taking 21 hours to complete,[10] versus BOAC's inaugural Comet flight between the two cities of 24 hours. This later became the West Coast express when the technical stop at Khartoum was transferred to Kano, Nigeria, resulting in a shortened flying of 18 hours.[17] The fortnightly Wallaby service,[18] routed Johannesburg–Mauritius–Cocos IslandsPerth, Australia, started in November 1957.[10]

After a host of accidents involving SAA's and other airlines' Comets, the airline ordered three JT4A-powered Boeing 707–320 Intercontinentals on 21 February 1958, with the first delivered on 1 July 1960.[19] Three months after arrival, on 1 October 1960, the Boeing 707 was deployed on the airline's flagship Springbok Service, trimming the flying time to 13 hours.[10] Other changes brought about by the 707 were a livery change, to an orange tail with blue and white markings,[10] as well as improved comforts, range and speed. A 707 replaced the DC-7B on the Wallaby route in 1967; Cocos Islands was dropped, while Sydney became the terminus. Flights to New York, via Rio de Janeiro, started on 23 February 1969 using a 707.[10] The first 707 of SAA landed in Europe in October 1961 with a nine-hour flight to Athens.

Revenue Passenger-Kilometers, scheduled flights only, in millions
Year Traffic
1950 197
1955 331
1960 489
1965 1144
1969 2168
1971 3070
1975 5942
1980 8843
1985 8683
2000 19321
Source:ICAO Digest of Statistics for 1950-55, IATA World Air Transport Statistics 1960-2000

The jets arrived during a period when most African countries, except SA's neighbours, denied South African airlines the use of their airspace, forcing the carriers to fly longer detours. In 1967 the Skymasters, Constellations and DC-7Bs were seeing retirement, replaced by the commercially-successful Boeing 727 trijet the following year to complement the Boeing 707. The choice of 727 was based on the geography of the destinations to which it would fly; for example Johannesburg is 1,694 metres (5,558 ft) high and hot, where the 727's wings and other technical capabilities enable it to operate out of these airports. (for further information, please see Hot and high)

On 13 March 1968 SAA ordered five JT9D-7A-powered Boeing 747-200Bs.[20] The first, Lebombo (registered as ZS-SAN), was delivered on 22 October 1971 after a 3-stop flight from Seattle.[20][21] It was placed into service in December and proved very popular. SAA would eventually operate 23 brand-new "Jumbo Jets" in total, including the −200M (first delivered in 1980), −300 (1983), −400, and the long-range Boeing 747SP.[20] The 747SP, especially, was acquired to overcome the refusal of many countries prohibiting SAA from using their airspace by exploiting its long-range capabilities, as well as to serve lower-density routes which were unsuited to the 747-100[22] Six were delivered starting 19 March 1976.[20] To demonstrate the 747SP's performance one was delivered Seattle to Cape Town non-stop, an airliner distance record that stood until 1989.[10] The first 747SP arrived on South African shores on 19 March 1976.[20] As the 747 entered service its smaller siblings, the 707s, were converted to combi – passenger/cargo – configurations, and high-density seating.[10] All of SAA's Vickers Viscounts were sold to British Midland Airways by March 1972 after being replaced by the popular and successful Boeing 737s.[10]

Expansion: 1974–1983[edit]

A Boeing 747SP, a shortened Boeing 747-100, is parked at an fenced-off airport, facing right. The aircraft's engines feature prominently, as a mobile stairway is placed next to one of its doors under the "N" in South African.
A Boeing 747SP donated to South African Airways Museum Society is stored at Rand Airport (2010)

A major development for the airline during the 1970s was the opening of a route to Asia, with Boeing 707 flights to Hong Kong in June 1974, with an en route stop at the Seychelles Islands.[10] In 1980, when SAA began flights to Taipei using a 747SP, by which time Seychelles Islands was replaced in favour of Mauritius for the Hong Kong service. South Africa became one of the few countries in the world to recognise the government of Republic of China in Taiwan.

Due to the refusal of African countries to use their airspace, the SAA was forced to fly around the 'bulge' of Africa mostly via Ilha do Sal which was a detour of almost 3,000 kilometres (1,900 mi) according to great circle mappings.[23] This also included the route to Tel Aviv, which doubled the distance and flying time involved.[24] European airlines were allowed to fly over Africa when flying to South Africa, usually via Nairobi and later nonstop.

On Boxing Day 1980 – 26 December – the last South African Airways Boeing 707 service was operated between Paris and Johannesburg. Upon touchdown, a chapter in SAA's history was closed, bringing the 20-year career of the 707 to an end. The quadjet was replaced by the world's first wide-body twinjet, the Airbus A300, which had entered revenue-raising service in 1976.[10] Likewise, the 727 were all phased out by 1983, with the replacement being the more economical Boeing 737.[10] As a number of countries withdrew landing rights for SAA, however, the airline leased its aircraft to Canada, Mauritius, Brazil and Morocco, along with its crew.

Effect of Apartheid: 1985–1990[edit]

Due to international condemnation of the apartheid regime during the 1980s, SAA itself faced hostility, with its offices being attacked. SAA's London office was daubed with red paint, while in Harare, Zimbabwe, its offices were badly damaged after protesters went on the rampage.[25]

The U.S. Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 banned all flights by South African–owned carriers including SAA. In 1987, SAA's services to Perth and Sydney in Australia were ended, in light of the Australian Government's opposition to apartheid.[26] There were other upbeat events however; the South African Airways Museum Society opened its doors to the public at Jan Smuts International Airport (which was renamed the OR Tambo International Airport in 2006).[27] The organisation was formed by South African Airways employees and outside parties with the mission of preserving South African aviation history, especially SAA itself.[27] Based at Transvaal Aviation Club, Rand Airport, Germiston, it was founded after the restoration of the Junkers Ju 52/3ms. Since then, many aircraft have been added to SAA Museum Society's collection of famous aircraft relating to South Africa's aviation industry.

End of the 'Pariah Airline': 1991–1996[edit]

A SAL Boeing 747-300 Johannesburg, one of the 23 "Jumbo Jets" bought new by the airline. The 1970s–1997 livery features orange, blue and white.

With the demise of apartheid, beginning in 1990, SAA was able to shake off its pariah image, restoring services to former destinations, introducing services to new ones and expanding into the rest of Africa, and into Asia.[28][29] 1 June 1990 was an important day for SAA, as South African companies signed a domestic air travel deregulation act. Later that year, SAA was chosen as the Best Airline to Africa by London magazine Executive Travel[citation needed]. Flights to New York's JFK International Airport resumed in November 1991 after the United States imposed economic sanctions on South Africa in 1986,[30] and South African's planes were able to fly for the first time over Egypt and Sudan, on 8 September.[31] The airline launched flights to Milan on 1 June during the year, and services to Athens were re-introduced.[31] Also, an interline with Aeroflot was established.

The first of SAA's eight Boeing 747-400s, named Durban, arrived in South Africa on 19 January 1991.[20] The airline was unusual in that two different turbofan engines were operated. Six Roll-Royce RB211-524H-powered examples were ordered; the other two, part of an unfulfilled Philippine Airlines order, had four General Electric CF6-80C2B5Fs each.[20] Winglets, structural changes, as well as fuel-efficient engines enabled these aircraft to fly non-stop from South Africa to the East Coast of the United States. The arrival of Boeing's newest Jumbo perhaps overshadowed the acquisition by SAA of the world's first commercial fly-by-wire airliner, the Airbus A320, to assist and enhance services within the country and on regional services.[10] Also arrived were the wide-body Boeing 767s, in August 1993,[10] which SAA deployed on African, Southern European and Middle Eastern routes. They would be phased out within ten years.

During 1992, South African entered the Miami market (from Cape Town) by flying into Miami International Airport, and re-entered Australia flying direct to Perth, followed with a same day return "shuttle" service to Sydney. This year also saw codesharing agreements with American Airlines[32] and Air Tanzania. Direct flights to Southeast Asia including Bangkok and Singapore; the later was discontinued by 1996. The following year, SAA began services to Manchester and Hamburg, and a codesharing agreement was reached with Brazil's Varig[citation needed]. It also saw the birth of the airline Alliance, which was a partnership between SAA, Uganda Airlines and Air Tanzania. Also South African greeted its passengers in four different languages during domestic flights: English, Zulu, Afrikaans and Sotho, while passengers on international flights were also greeted in the destination's local language. Nevertheless, this "Alliance" withered against intense competition from Kenya Airways (and affiliated Precision Air). The Tanzanian government is subsidising Air Tanzania while it disentangles the relationship with SAA.

On 24 April 1994, South African Express (SA Express), a feeder airline service of South African, began operating.[33] This came after a 3-year preparation process since 1991, when the regional airline was granted its operating license. SAA initially held a 20% stake in the SA Express – the other three shareholders were Alliance Airline Holdings (51%), SA Enterprises (24.9%) and Abyss Investments (4.1%).[34] SA Express took over some of South African's low-density domestic routes.

As of April 1996, South African employed 11,100 people, of whom 3,100 were engineers and 293 being licensed avionics engineers.[35] It owned and operated 48 aircraft,[35] and served 34 destinations from its main hubs at Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

Rebranding: 1997–2005[edit]

Boeing 747-300 Ndizani at Perth Airport (2003).

In 1997, SAA introduced its new image and livery, dropping the Springbok emblem, and the old national colours of orange, white and blue. The new livery was based upon the new national flag, with a sun motiff. The airline's name on its aircraft was changed to South African, with the Afrikaans name Suid-Afrikaanse Lugdiens dropped. As a symbol of the new rainbow nation, one of SAA's 747-300s, named Ndizani (registration ZS-SAJ), was painted in bright colours.[36] Since Ndizani was withdrawn from service, there have been calls to paint another SAA aircraft in these striking colours. This special-liveried 747-300 helped transport South African Olympic athletes to Atlanta for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.[37] The airline started online ticket sales and formed an alliance with SA Airlink and SA Express.

An Airbus A340-600 in the current livery. It is landing on a runway, facing left.
A SAA Airbus A340-600 in 1997–present colour scheme, using the colours of the South African flag. The first A340-600 was delivered to SAA on 24 January 2003,[38] making it the first carrier in the Southern Hemisphere to operate the type. Here it is seen landing at Perth Airport in 2003 with reverse thrusters fully deployed.

In 1998, services to Buenos Aires were restored[citation needed], while services to Copenhagen Airport were stopped. A new airline president and CEO, Coleman Andrews, was appointed. The arrival of the American saw a very comprehensive and somewhat controversial overhaul of the airline, changing the management of SAA. Mr Andrews was brought in by Transnet, the state-owned parent company, to remedy the problems of dwindling passengers, which Transnet's own market research had revealed was caused by "failure to fly on time, unfriendly and minimally trained staff, poor food and SAA fares being 12–25% above its competitors".[39] He was credited with rescuing World Airways from the brink of bankruptcy earlier in the decade.[32] During his first 18 months (out of 3-year) as CEO, South African Airway's market value increased fivefold.[40]

In June 1999, Transnet entered into a sale agreement with Swissair in which Transnet sold 20% of its shareholding in SAA to Swissair for R1,4 billion and which also included an option to sell and transfer a further 10% to Swissair thereby increasing its stake to 30%.[41] In 2002 the South African government bought back the shares in South African Airlines.[42]

In 2000, SAA placed order for 21 next-generation Boeing 737–800s, reportedly worth US$680 million.[43] Among the 21, five CFM 56-7B27-powered examples were requested outright from Boeing, while the rest from other parties.[44] The order was South African's aim to renew its fleet and phase out the likes of Airbus A300s and A320s, meaning the Boeings would be deployed on regional and domestic routes of the airline.[45]

The 737 order was followed by yet another Airbus order in 2002. Under CEO Andre Viljoen, South African Airways requested Airbus to overhaul its fleet at a cost of US$3.5 billion in March 2002, taking advantage of a slump in the order books of both Boeing and Airbus.[43] The entire airline industry was still staggering after the September 11 attacks in the USA, which lead to new aircraft orders either being deferred, or cancelled altogether. SAA was in a buyers market and with the demise of Swissair, which had A340-600s about to be delivered, made a huge impact on Airbus clinching the SAA deal. This was part of a bigger order that covered 11 A319s, 15 A320s, nine A340-600s and six A340-300s.[43] Three of the A340-600 aircraft came from International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC). The new Airbus A319s replaced the ageing Boeing 737-200 fleet, but the Boeing 737-800s continue in service, because SAA cancelled the A320 order before any aircraft were delivered.[43]

Later that year, South African Airways made a successful bid for a 49% stake in Air Tanzania. The move highlighted SAA's wish to gain a foothold in the East African region. The bid was worth $20 million, and was SAA's first acquisition of a foreign airline.[46][47] The merger failed in 2006 when new SAA management felt that the arrangement was a fruitless mistake made by previous SAA managers.[48]

"New" Business Class seat on display in 2006

In 1999, South African Airways and Delta Air Lines started codesharing on flights from Atlanta to South Africa. Those flights took place on South African Airways planes. 2000 saw South African Airways jets arrive at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

In 2001, South African Airways won the Best Cargo Airline to Africa award from Air Cargo News – (even though South African is mainly a passenger airline) – and South African Airways signed a codesharing agreement with Nigeria Airways to provide service from the United States to Lagos using South African Airways B-747s. (This codeshare agreement is no longer in effect, and SAA's flights to/from the United States no longer stop in Nigeria.) The airline earned a spot on the Zagat Survey's top ten international airlines list, opened a new website and named Andre Viljoen as Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

In March 2004, South African Airways announced its application to join Star Alliance. The airline alliance accepted its application in June, with SAA joining as a full member in April 2006.

In July 2004, Andre Viljoen resigned as CEO of SAA, the media speculated he resigned due to the heavy losses SAA suffered in a R6-billion hedging loss. In August 2004, Khaya Ngqula was appointed as CEO of SAA. A new chairman, Professor Jakes Gerwel, was appointed in the same month.

In 2005, it became the first non-Saudi airline to fly a direct Hadj service to Medina in Saudi Arabia.

In July 2005, SAA started a four times weekly Johannesburg-Accra-Washington, D.C. service with a Boeing 747-400. Service was increased to daily flights in July 2006, and the 747-400 was replaced by an Airbus A340-600. Also, because SAA could not obtain rights to fly passengers between Ghana and the US, the stop in Accra was replaced with a stop in Dakar. Accra will remain an SAA destination, however. In 2007, SAA retired the last of its 747-400 fleet; two were reactivated in 2008 for flights to Lagos, and by 2010 Luanda as well. SAA retired them again finally by the end of October 2010.[49]

On 6 June 2006, the codeshare agreement was terminated between South African Airways and Delta Air Lines because of the rivalry between Star Alliance and SkyTeam, Delta Air Lines' alliance.

Restructuring and Star Alliance: 2006–present[edit]

Airbus A340-600 of SAA in Star Alliance look at Munich Airport

As early as 2003, media reports appeared of the South African government's plan to restructure and overhaul the state-owned enterprise Transnet, due to dismal financial performance.[50] The plans called for the split of South African Airways from its parent company Transnet, which would see SAA to operate under a separate identity. Because of legislative processes, the deadline was moved from 2005 to 31 March 2006.[51]

The Airbus A319 just few of the newer aircraft bought by SAA

A significant feat was SAA's joining of the world's biggest airline alliance, Star Alliance, on 10 April 2006.[52][53] SAA was the first African airline to join Star Alliance, and with its entry, the alliance's membership was raised to 18.[54] To celebrate the occasion, and as a condition of entry, the African airline painted an Airbus A340-600 (registration ZS-SNC and Boeing 737-800 (registration ZS-SJV) in Star Alliance's aircraft livery.[55] South African Airways fulfilled 53 requirements during the joining process.[56]

In May 2007, SAA launched a 18-month comprehensive restructuring programme[57] which aimed to ensure that the airline became profitable. The restructuring attempted to streamline the business as well as to re-skill employees and improve their morale and management/workers relations. According to then-CEO Khaya Ngqula, this came largely after "uncompetitive ownership and aircraft lease costs, excessive head count and fuel price volatility". The programme involves: the spin-off of businesses into seven subsidiaries,[57] thereby allowing SAA to concentrate on its core business of passenger and cargo transport; the grounding SAA's Boeing 747–400 fleet;[57] rationalising international routes (Paris was dropped altogether); the axing of 30% of the airline's managers;[58] among other reductions. This was expected to save the airline R2.7 billion (US$378.2 million).[57] By June 2009, R2,5 billion were saved.[59]

On 20 June 2008, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) agreed to extend South African Airways' sponsorship of the organisation another 3 and a half years. This sponsorship extension succeeds two years of co-operation that "have seen a successful partnership blossom between SAA and the ATP".[60] The deal is worth $20 million, and runs until the end of 2012. On the same day it was announced that a new ATP World Tour tournament would be held in South Africa in 2009. In 2010, the company sought to recover $4 million from then-CEO Khaya Ngqula, for allegedly spending the money on his friends and awarding business deals with organisations and individual in which he had an interest. Among them are ATP and professional golfer Ángel Cabrera.[61]

A Boeing 747-400 (ZS-SAX) at London Heathrow Airport in current colour scheme. The aircraft was part of the long-haul fleet, before being retired permanently in 2010.

In February 2010, the airline appointed Siza Mzimela as its first female CEO. This came after "an extensive and thorough process to find a suitable candidate" for Khaya Ngqula,[62] who was accused for mismanagement, and has therefore quit. Mzimela was previously CEO of SAA's domestic partner airline, South African Express (SA Express). She took over the position from Chris Smyth on 1 April that year,[63] who has been acting CEO ever since Khaya Ngqula left since March 2009.[64][65]

At the end of 2010, SAA permanently phased out the two Boeing 747-400s, which were temporarily re-introduced in late 2008.[66] The 747-400s, which had been important to the airline's long-haul route structure, were initially retired in 2007 as part of the company's restructuring plan.[67] This was expected to save it $60 million during the fiscal year ending March 2009. The fleet of Jumbo Jets was the backbone of South Africa–U.K. services. When the aircraft re-entered service, they served flights to Lagos and Luanda.[66] SAA's Airbus A340-600s are the 747's replacement.

In April 2011, South African Airways embarked on a set of new marketing campaigns in the form of TV ads entitled "Whisper" and "Vuyo", directed by Jeana Theron of Bouffant. The ads conclude with "South African Airways: Africa's Most Awarded Airline." These campaigns coincide with the customer experience improvements implemented by the airline in early 2011, including the cabin upgrades offered to customers flying long haul on the airline's six new A330-200s being delivered throughout 2011. The customer experience improvements allow SAA to better compete with rival carriers on key routes to London from both Cape Town and Johannesburg.

On 24 February 2012 SAA's new A320 (registration ZS-SZZ) made its first revenue flight between Johannesburg and Durban. Other A320's are to be delivered to SAA during 2012 and 2013. The airline will also in 2012 re-open its pilot training academy and is currently looking for an international partner to start the academy. On 16 August 2012, SAA stopped its direct flights between Cape Town and London, routing all of its London (and subsequently international) flights through OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Declining passenger numbers to the UK and increasing airport taxes in that country were among reasons for ending its 20-year Cape Town-London service.

In 2012 and 2013, SAA made a series of sudden changes to management; several executives have left the airline. In February 2013, Vuyisile Kona, the acting CEO, was suspended.

Emblems[edit]

South African Airways' "Flying Springbok" logo has been an integral symbol of the South African carrier ever since its formation in 1934. So much so, when referring to SAA, "the Flying Springbok" is sometimes used instead of its full name, much like the reference of "the Flying Kangaroo" associated with Australian carrier Qantas. However, the logo has been discontinued since 1997, when it was dropped in favour of a new aircraft livery and identity, although the word "Springbok" remains its radio callsign.

Corporate affairs[edit]

Business trends[edit]

The business trends shown below are for the South African Airways group (including SAA and Mango operations), and are based mainly on the published annual reports; there are gaps and some inconsistencies, largely because the reports vary year by year in the information given, and because figures are frequently restated in subsequent years. The trends are (for years ending 31 March):

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Turnover (R billion) 17.3 16.3 17.2 19.4 20.6 22.2 26.3 22.2 22.6 23.9
Operating profit (before finance costs) (R m) 654 414 -610 -973 334 487 807 -1,300
Profit attributable to equity holders/ Retained earnings (R m) 645 301 / 779 681 -935
Number of employees 11,601 11,524 10,048 8,227 7,989 8,034 10,057 11,044
RPK (millions) 21,769 22,306 23,505 24,488 25,920 26,131 23,328 22,413 22,661 23,217
 : - SAA 21,769 22,306 23,505 24,488 25,381 24,619 21,935 21,081 21,181 21,509
 : - mango (from November 2006) - 539 1,512 1,393 1,332 1,480 1,708
Number of passengers (m) 6.5 6.5 6.9 7.2 8.3 8.9 8.2 8.0 8.0 8.1
 : - SAA 6.5 6.5 6.9 7.2 7.7 7.4 6.9 6.7 6.6 6.5
 : - mango (from November 2006) - 1.5 1.3 1.3 1.4 1.6
Passenger load factor (%) 68 67 70 70 75 76 74 71 70 72
Cargo flown (000s tonnes) 176 185 202 186 138 119 129 142
Number of aircraft (at year end) 75 75 66 61 59
Notes/sources [68] [68] [68] [68] [69][70] [71] [72] [73] [74] [75]

Anti-competitive practices[edit]

On 5 June 2007, it was announced that SAA paid R55 million to the Competition Commission of South Africa because of anti-competitive behaviour such as price fixing.[76][77] This fine was in addition to a R45 million fine paid by SAA on 31 May 2006 as a penalty for SAA's attempts to prevent travel agents from dealing with rival air carriers.[78]

"Kulula has once again called on government to call it a day and keep its promise...that South African taxpayers will stop filling the begging bowl for ailing state-owned businesses". Many other companies like Flitestar, SunAir and Nationwide had failed because they could not compete with state-funded SAA. "State re-nationalisation of the industry will continue to be destructive to free and fair competition." The company said it was "bizarre" that the proceeds of its income tax, fuel taxes, VAT, import duties and other government levies then were paid over to a state-owned competitor.[79]

Racism controversy[edit]

SAA have been accused of racism for rejecting white cadet pilots on the grounds of race, who met the educational and physical criteria. By filling out several dummy applications, the Beeld newspaper established that the online form had been programmed to reject any white applicants.[80][81] The South African trade union Solidarity instituted legal action against SAA resulting in the policy being revoked.[82][83]

Head office[edit]

Airways Park, the head office of South African Airways

South African Airways is headquartered in Airways Park on the grounds of OR Tambo International Airport in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, Gauteng.[84][85] The building was developed by Stauch Vorster Architects.[86] Completed in March 1997 for R70 million, the 27,000-square-metre (290,000 sq ft) current head office building links to three older buildings. Two atriums bridge the buildings; the first has a canteen, and the second acts as a circulation hub. Planted courtyards lie between the old and new buildings.[87]

South African Airways moved its head office from Durban to Rand Airport in Germiston on 1 July 1935.[88] Before the head office moved to its current location, the airline's head office was in the Airways Towers in Johannesburg.[89]

Destinations[edit]

South African Airways Counter at Guarulhos International Airport

South African Airways flies to 37 international destinations in 26 countries in Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Asia and Australasia. SAA, along with British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Korean Air, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines, is one of the few carriers to have services to all six inhabited continents. The airline has a strong presence in Southern Africa, while domestically it serves five cities.

In December 2010, the airline announced that it would introduce 6 more routes in Africa including routes to Cotonou, Benin; Abuja, Nigeria; Madagascar; Republic of Congo; Cameroon and Burundi.[90] SAA began flights to Beijing, China on 31 January 2012 as part of its international route expansion.[91]

Codeshare agreements[edit]

Besides fellow Star Alliance members, South African Airways has codeshare agreements with the following airlines as of February 2014:[92]

Fleet[edit]

SAA Boeing 737-800 ZS-SJM

Current fleet[edit]

As of February 2014, SAA's fleet consists of the following aircraft with an average age of 9.8 years:[99][100]

South African Airways fleet
Aircraft In Service Orders Passengers Notes
C Y Total
Airbus A319-100 11 25 95 120
Airbus A320-200 6 6 24 114 138 Deliveries began 2013[101]
Airbus A321-200 10
TBA
Deliveries from 2013[102]
Airbus A330-200 6 36 186 222
Airbus A340-300 8 38 215
231
253
269
ZS-SXD in Team South Africa 2012 livery
Airbus A340-600 9 42 275 317 ZS-SNC painted in Star Alliance livery
Boeing 737-800 11 32 125 157 ZS-SJV painted in Star Alliance livery
Being phased out
Cargo Fleet
Boeing 737-200 1
N/A
To be phased out and replaced by Boeing 737-300[103]
Boeing 737-300 2 1 [103]
N/A
Replacing Boeing 737-200
Boeing 737-400 1[103]
N/A
Total 55 17

Future fleet plans[edit]

South African Airways are expected to update their fleet from 2014 with more fuel-efficient planes and have asked all pilots to hold on to their wage increases. Uncertainties remain around the timing of new aircraft purchases and whether their owners, the Government of South Africa, will provide funding. Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba recently announced that they will no longer purchase any more long-haul aircraft. This is accordance with the twelve year turn around strategy. He ordered the airline’s management team to withdraw its tender for more fuel-efficient long-haul airplanes. The state-owned SAA issued the request for proposals (RFP) for 23 new wide-body, long-haul aircraft late last year (2013). The contract was worth an estimated R60 billion, until the deal was called off.[104] Malusi Gigaba however did announce SAA will continue to renew and upgrade their short haul domestic fleet with new A320 aircraft.[105]

Fleet history[edit]

Since 1934, South African Airways has operated the following aircraft types:

South African Airways fleet history
Aircraft Total Introduced Retired
Airbus A300 9 1976 2001
Airbus A319 11 2004
Airbus A320 7 1991 2002
Airbus A320 4 2012
Airbus A330-200 5 2003 2005
Airbus A330-200 6 2011
Airbus A340-200 6 2003 2013[106]
Airbus A340-300 8 2004
Airbus A340-600 9 2002
Airspeed Envoy 4 1936 1938[107]
Avro York 8 1945 1947[108]
Boeing 707-300 10 1960 1980[109]
Boeing 727-100 9 1965 1982[110]
Boeing 737-200 19 1968 (1 -200F in service)[111]
Boeing 737-800 21 2002 (11 still in service)
Boeing 747SP 6 1976 2003
Boeing 747-200 8 1971 2004
Boeing 747-300 6 1983 2004
Boeing 747-400 8 1991 2010
Boeing 767-200 3 1993 2004
Boeing 737-200 27 1968 2007
De Havilland DH.60 Gypsy Moth 1 1934 1937[112]
De Havilland DH104 Dove 2 1947 1952[113]
De Havilland Comet 1 From BOAC 1953 1954[114]
Douglas C-47 Dakota 8 1946 1970[115]
Douglas DC-4 7 1946 1967[116]
Douglas DC-7 4 1956 1967[117]
HS 748 3 1970 1983[118]
Junkers F.13 4 1934 1940[119]
Junkers W.34 1 1934 1937[120]
Junkers Ju 52 15 1934 1940[121]
Junkers Ju 86 18 1937 1940[122]
Lockheed L-18 Lodestar 21 1944 1955[123]
Lockheed Constellation 4 1950 1964[124]
Vickers VC.1 Viking 8 1947 1951[125]
Vickers Viscount 8 1958 1971 [126]

In spite of the recent retirement of the last A340-200 (ZS-SLF), this aircraft is occasionally used as a substitute when technical difficulties preclude other A340 services from operating. FlightAware data also suggest the aircraft is in regular use on SAA's high-density domestic routes, principally Johannesburg-Cape Town.[127] This is confirmed on SAA's website. Ergo, ZS-SLF remains one of the few A342s currently in service worldwide.

Voyager[edit]

Voyager is the frequent-flyer program of South African Airways. Apart from South African Airlink, South African Express Airways and Swaziland Airlink, who have an alliance with SAA, the program also partners 32 other airlines, along with many more business.[128] Voyager consists of five tier statuses – Blue, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Lifetime Platinum. To reach a higher tier, members must fly on selected flights to allocate "Tier Miles", in order to progress. This is different from "Base Miles", which members can only use to win receive awards.[129]

Flight safety, incidents and accidents[edit]

Flight safety[edit]

The Germany-based Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre, or JACDEC, calculates annual rankings based on aircraft loss accidents and serious incidents. In January 2013 SAA was given a rating in the bottom ten of all airlines evaluated, ranking 52 out of 60 airlines.[130]

Accidents[edit]

  • 16 June 1937: A Junkers Ju 52 (registration ZS-AKY) crashed on take-off at Port Elizabeth Airport following engine failure in two engines and burnt out. All aboard escaped. This was the airline's first accident in which passengers were injured.[131]
  • 16 October 1937: A Junkers W34 fi (registration ZS-AEC), named Sir George Grey, crashed during a mail flight. The aeroplane was damaged beyond repair.[132]
  • 28 March 1941: A Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar (registration ZS-AST) Elands Bay, South Africa. All aboard were killed on impact and in the post crash fire.[131][133]
  • 5 January 1948: A Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar (registration ZS-ASW), overran the runway at Palmietfontein after landing deep. The undercarriage was ripped-off and the hull damaged beyond repair. There were light injuries to passengers but no fatalities.[131]
  • 15 October 1951: A Douglas DC-3, (registration ZS-AVJ) named Pardeberg, flew into Mount Ingeli near Kokstad, Western KwaZulu-Natal while flying in IMC conditions. The aircraft was flying from Port Elizabeth to Durban, South Africa. A major contributing factor determined by the board of inquiry was the unserviceability of ground-based radio navigational aids along the route. Seventeen people were killed.[131][133]
  • 15 September 1952: A Douglas DC-3, (registration ZS-AVI) was damaged beyond repair while attempting to land at an unlit country airport at Carolina, South Africa after the crew became lost on a flight to Palmietfontein airfield, Johannesburg from Livingstone, Zambia. After attempting to hold for thunderstorms to clear near their destination the crew initiated a landing when their fuel ran low. The altitude of the airfield was mis-judged and the aircraft hit a rocky outcrop on final approach to the runway. No passengers or crew were killed or injured.[131]
  • 8 April 1954: A de Havilland Comet, (registration G-ALYY, aka 'Yoke Yoke') flight SA201, departed Rome for Cairo and Johannesburg. The aircraft crashed off the coast of Italy killing all 21 people on board. Along with BOAC Flight 781, it was one of two Comet crashes caused by a flaw in the design. The de Havilland Comet was leased from British Overseas Airways Corporation.
  • 29 October 1960: Flight SA218, a Boeing 707-344A (registration ZS-CKC), executed a wheels-up landing at Nairobi airport after damaging the undercarriage during an impact with the ground on its initial approach. No passengers or crew were killed or injured but the aircraft remained out of operation for many months until it was repaired and re-introduced to service.[131]
  • 6 March 1962: Flight SA512, a Douglas DC-3 (registration ZS-DJC), crashed into a mountainside in the vicinity of Seymour, Eastern Cape, South Africa, after the pilot insisted on conducting flight as visual flight rules (VFR) while flying below low cloud above rising ground. The pilot and first officer were killed but passengers and cabin staff survived.[131][133]
  • 30 June 1962: A Douglas DC-4 (registration ZS-BMH) was involved in a mid-air collision with a military Harvard training aircraft near Durban airport. The military aircraft crashed but the crew managed to land the airliner without injury to passengers or crew despite losing a large part of the vertical stabiliser. The aircraft is the last DC-4 manufactured and was repaired and returned to service. It is currently part of the SAA museum historical flight.[131]
  • 13 March 1967: Flight SA406, a Vickers Viscount 818, (registration ZS-CVA) christened Rietbok, crashed into the sea near Kayser's Beach during bad weather while on approach to East London, Eastern Cape. All twenty-five persons on board were killed.[131][133] The accident investigation board stated 'The available data is not sufficient for the originating cause of the accident to be determined with any degree of probability.' However the board couldn't rule out the possibility that the aircraft's pilot suffered a heart attack and this resulted in a loss of control.[134]
  • 20 April 1968: Flight SA228, a six-week old Boeing 707-300C, named "Pretoria" registration ZS-EUW, was lost near Windhoek, South West Africa (now Namibia). The crew used a flap retraction sequence from the 707-B series which removed flaps in larger increments than desirable for that stage of the flight, leading to a loss of lift at 600 feet (180 m) above ground level. The subsequent descent went undetected by the crew, leading to impact with the ground. Fatalities totalled 123.[131][133]
  • 28 November 1987: Flight SA295, a Boeing 747-200B Combi, registration ZS-SAS, named Helderberg, crashed over the Indian Ocean en route from Taipei, Taiwan to Johannesburg via Mauritius, after a fire in the main cargo hold. The causes of this fire are unconfirmed, and a number of conspiracy theories (mostly pertaining to the nuclear armaments being produced by the South African government at the time) are in circulation surrounding the crash. All 159 people on board were killed.[133]

Incidents[edit]

  • The only successful hijacking of a SAA flight took place on 24 May 1972 when a Boeing 727 (ZS-SBE) was hijacked en route from Salisbury in Rhodesia (now known as Harare, Zimbabwe) to Johannesburg. Two Lebanese, Kamil and Yagi, took control of the aircraft by packing dynamite sticks on the hatracks. They were armed with a pistol. They forced the pilot, Captain Blake Flemington, to return to Salisbury where they landed and re-fuelled with 12 hostages remaining on board. They were bluffed by the captain into thinking that they were en route to the Seychelles, while he was in fact heading for Blantyre in Malawi. After landing the passengers used nightfall to go into the cockpit, where they climbed down the emergency escape rope. By the time the hijackers realised this, the captain, one passenger, and a flight steward, Dirk Nel, remained on the aircraft. The two hijackers started fighting with each other for possession of the dynamite fuse. In the ensuing chaos, the three captives escaped, leaving the two hijackers on board. The Malawi security forces started shooting and the two surrendered. They were jailed for two years on a charge of being in possession of an undeclared firearm on board an aircraft. After serving one year of their sentence, they were released.
  • South African Airways Flight 322, 17 June 2006. South African Flight 322, a Boeing 737-800 underwent an attempted hijacking by a 21-year-old Zimbabwean, who took a flight attendant hostage in an attempt to enter the aircraft's cockpit and divert the plane to Maputo, Mozambique. He was subdued before entering the cockpit on the flight en route from Cape Town to Johannesburg. The pilots of SAA Flight 322 had been monitoring the incident via CCTV and the plane returned to Cape Town where a police task force stormed the aircraft and arrested the suspect.[135]

See also[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]