SAA first flight
Workers sing and dance as South Africa's national airline, South African Airways (SAA), prepares to take off after a year-long hiatus triggered by it running out of funds, at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, September 23, 2021. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

There were scenes of jubilation at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport as the first official flight from South African Airways (SA) took off on Thursday morning. SAA employees sang and danced after the months of uncertainty.

SAA first flight
A cabin crew member reacts as South Africa’s national airline, South African Airways (SAA), prepares to take off after a year-long hiatus triggered by it running out of funds, at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, September 23, 2021. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
SAA workers prepare
Workers prepare ahead of South Africa’s national airline, South African Airways (SAA), taking off after a year-long hiatus triggered by it running out of funds, at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, September 23, 2021. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

WATCH SAA flight take off for first time in over a year

SAA said the return of South Africa’s national airline to the skies will also benefit consumers as it will bring more competitive pricing to the sector.

SAA board chairperson John Lamola said before the flight: “Since SAA went into and then out of business rescue, there has been less local capacity and that means tickets have become more expensive. Our return to the skies will mean more competitive pricing and will enable more South Africans to fly.


SAA first flight OR Tambo
South Africa’s national airline, South African Airways (SAA), prepares to take off after a year-long hiatus triggered by it running out of funds, at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, September 23, 2021. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

“Economics aside, there is also the pride factor. Seeing SAA’s tail colours on international tarmacs is not only positive for South Africa but the rest of the continent,” Lamola said.

The airline’s local flights which began Thursday morning will see at least three trips per day between Johannesburg to Cape Town each way.

African countries earmarked for flights include Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo with these starting on Monday, September 27th.

“Bookings are the obvious measure of success and I’m thrilled so far that there is high interest both in South Africa and on the rest of the continent.

“SAA is receiving inquiries from many missions on the continent asking when their cities will be added to our route network. All of this positive affirmation is indicative how people feel about SAA and our return to service,” Lamola said.

The board chairperson vowed that the airline had now turned a corner from its previous struggles and would better serve its consumers.

“We have reduced our staff complement considerably and now have a lean efficient fleet of aircraft numbering eight, from a previous thirty-two. Many parts of SAA’s repurposing have been difficult and painful at times, but our overriding dictum has been a sense of responsibility to the taxpayer and a promise that we will not go back to where we once were.” – SAnews.gov.za