With South America an ever-growing source market for southern Africa, industry has widely welcomed SAA’s first intercontinental service to São Paulo in Brazil, which took off from Cape Town International Airport yesterday (Tuesday, October 31) at 12h55.
The first flight out of Johannesburg will take off on Monday (October 6). Cape Town will operate on Tuesdays and Saturdays, with Johannesburg flights operating on Mondays and Thursdays.
Speaking to Tourism Update following the launch, Director of Alpha Destinations, Angela Matthews, said there had been an increase in interest in travel to South Africa from the southern part of South America, especially Argentina, and Chile.
“This new São Paulo flight will certainly provide welcome additional capacity, which is always a good thing,” she said, adding that her company would keep an eye on how the SAA route fared regarding reliability and efficiency.
Without a direct flight between South America and South Africa, inbound tourists from that region had found alternative routes via the UK and Europe. “Many of them prefer it, opting to spend a few nights in London, Paris or Rome and then continue to South Africa,” said Matthews.
She said this was especially true for honeymooners out of Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela. “We’ve seen an increase in growth from the Colombian market recently.”
More than 9 000 commercial flights
Reflecting on how far the airline had come over the past two years in its mission to re-entrench itself as the country’s proud national carrier and flag bearer, SAA interim CEO, Prof John Lamola, noted that when SAA took to the skies again in 2021, it had a solid strategy in place. “It has not been an easy journey, but the more than 9 000 commercial flights under our belts to date bear testimony to the success of our strategy.
“The choice of Brazil as our first intercontinental route was informed not only by rigorous economic and market analysis but also by considerations of the strategic linkages of South Africa in the context of the country’s membership of BRICS.”
Lamola said: “When the airline commenced operations in 2021, it started with three routes. Now, it flies to 10 international destinations, three domestic, and one intercontinental route. SAA has built its fleet to incorporate eight aircraft. By March 2024, it expects to fly to more destinations with a fleet of 13 aircraft.”
Gordhan responds to naysayers
Speaking a few days before the inaugural Brazil flight, Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, acknowledged that there were “naysayers”, stating: “SAA is in many ways an entity rising from the ashes of State Capture like a Phoenix. Because a few years ago, we thought that with all the damage done to SAA it wouldn’t survive. And many thought that the best way to deal with the future of SAA was to liquidate it.”
Gordhan said the national carrier had a “tremendously bright future” if the government managed the current expansion properly and concluded the deal with the strategic equity partner.
“The deal with the strategic equity partner should be concluded either late this year or early next year. Our wish is for late this year. That would add more muscle, make a lot more money available to SAA to expand, and will multiply its capacity to take South Africans out of South Africa, but also bring tourists into South Africa from all parts of the world as it once did, but now in a financially sustainable way.”