Feb 7, 2017: South African Airways (SAA), which was formed in February 1934, marks 83 years of service this month. One of the oldest airlines in existence, it has received numerous awards throughout the course of its history and has, in many instances, been a trailblazer.

When it was launched, SAA started with a strength of only 40 members of staff and a handful of aircraft, and serviced only 3,000 passengers in its first year of operation. More than eight decades later, the SAA Group has evolved and now transports more than 9 million passengers and 114,000 tonnes of freight per year.

The airline has evolved over the years and today there are many reasons that make it our national pride and a world class airline.

SAA connects South Africa to all of its major trade and tourism partners and, in doing so, supports 34,000 jobs within the country and contributes R9,2 billion – approximately 0.3 per cent of the national GDP every year.

“A customer-centric focus has guided us throughout all our years of operation. Our employees understand the catalytic role that air travel plays in people’s lives and businesses. It is no longer a luxury reserved for a privileged few, but has become an essential service,” says SAA spokesperson, TlaliTlali.

“We are the longest serving network carrier in Africa with a proven track record. Our route network gives more people greater access to air travel than ever before, and the world-class customer experience we offer has ensured that we remain an airline of choice for so many travellers. And our affiliation with Star Alliance, the world’s largest international airline network, provides our customers with access to a total of 1,300 airports in 190 countries.”

With a fleet of 57 aircraft, SAA is also one of the leading carriers in Africa, serving 74 destinations in partnership with SA Express, Airlink and SAA’s low-cost carrier, Mango. The partnership serves the entire continent and nine intercontinental routes from its Johannesburg hub. This caters for more than half of the African Union states - to 27 destinations in 23 countries in Africa.

With such an impressive history, the future holds much promise and many opportunities for growth and innovation. SAA is a globally ranked four-star airline and continues to deliver excellent products and service. The airline wins numerous awards every year and boasts being awarded the Best Airline in Africa for 14 consecutive years.

“We remain committed to fully ensuring the airline’s commercial future and growing into a financially sustainable airline,” says Tlali.

“SAA has and will continue to play a vital role as a catalyst for growth and development across the continent by providing seamless passenger and cargo transport services. We believe that rapid liberalisation of the skies will improve intra-Africa air connectivity, and will ensure that SAA and its peers continue with the pioneering task of Bringing the world to Africa and taking Africa to the world.”

SAA is well positioned to fill the intra-Africa air connectivity gap, and growth on the African continent has been set as a key objective in the airline’s long-term turnaround strategy. With the addition of three new A330-300 aircraft to the fleet, the airline is set to continue its established tradition of promoting tourism, facilitating trade and enabling investment.

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