Telling empowering stories, South Africans want to hear

Wednesday, 25 August 2021 17:08

SAA announces take-off date while Comair restarts Kulula and BA flights.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

South African Airways will resume flights on 23 September, more than 15 months after it was grounded by Covid-19 and business rescue.

The national carrier said that voyager bookings and travel credit voucher redemption will be available from 6 September 2021. The airline will initially operate flights from Johannesburg to Cape Town, Accra, Kinshasa, Harare, Lusaka and Maputo.

More destinations will be added to the route network as it ramps up operations in response to market conditions.

"After months of diligent work, we are delighted that SAA is resuming service and we look forward to welcoming on board our loyal passengers and flying the South African flag. We continue to be a safe carrier and adhering to Covid-19 protocols," said interim chief executive Thomas Kgokolo.

"There is a profound feeling of enthusiasm within Team SAA as we prepare for takeoff, with one common purpose – to rebuild and sustain a profitable airline that once again takes a leadership role among local, continental, and international airlines."

Kgokolo said that aviation sector is going through a testing period, and SAA is aware of the tough challenges that lie ahead in the coming weeks.

"As we are now poised for takeoff, we see this as a major milestone for SAA and the country."

SAA has failed to make a profit for almost a decade, surviving on state bailouts and government debt guarantees, while it was placed under administration a year ago.

The carrier has been lying dormant since March 2020, when the fleet was grounded due to travel bans to contain the Covid-19 coronavirus.

In June 2021, the government agreed to sell a majority stake in the carrier to a local jet-leasing company and private-equity firm.

A consortium comprised of Johannesburg-based Global Airways, which owns recently launched domestic airline Lift, and private-equity firm Harith General Partners will take a 51% shareholding in South African Airways.

The group, Takatso, will invest as much as R3.5 billion over the next three years, Lift co-founder Gidon Novick and Harith chief executive officer Tshepo Mahloele said.

"Government will have no further financial obligations to the company, outside of the existing liabilities that they will settle,” Novick said. “Route networks we are still working on, and it will be a phased rollout based on demand re-emerging post-Covid."

Meanwhile Comair says it will resume flights in South Africa from 1 September 2021.

The airline, which operates Kulula.com and British Airways (operated by Comair), temporarily halted services on 5 July in response to the implementation of an adjusted level 4 lockdown.

It was also hit by the prohibition of all non-essential travel in and out of Gauteng and low demand for air travel.

Comair said it is now preparing its aircraft, flight and cabin crews and airport personnel to ensure a seamless restart of services from the start of next month.

Comair marketing executive, Brian Kitchin, said temporarily suspending flights was the right decision while Covid-19 cases peaked and the vaccination programme gained momentum.

"It wasn’t an easy call to make because of the impact on our customers and employees, but we’ve used the time well, innovating a new fare offering preparing for the restart and looking to re-open more routes such as Mauritius.

"Flying is what we do and we’re eager to take off again and provide South African travellers with compelling products and competitive fares."

During the suspension period, Comair said that it developed new, flexible fare options to better meet customers’ differing requirements.

The three bundled affordable Kulula.com offerings will allow customers to pay only for what they need. The new bundles include:

  • Fly Light: A hop-on, hop-off option for those with only cabin bags offering the best possible fares. A change of booking fee of R299 applies.
  • Pack & Go: An all-round option to suit most traveller’s needs including one piece of checked luggage weighing up to 20kg and two free booking changes.
  • Fully Loaded: A fully flexible option allowing unlimited booking changes, two checked bags and Q-Jump to speed up check-in procedures.

British Airways (operated by Comair) will re-launch its Johannesburg/ Mauritius route operating two flights a week from 30 November.