South African Airways (SAA) represents the national flag carrier, and it is the largest airline based in South Africa, with its headquarters at Airways Park, OR Tambo International Airport in Gauteng. Currently, SAA flies to some 38 worldwide destinations from OR Tambo International Airport, and uses a fleet of some 54 aircraft.

The airline was founded in 1934 upon the South African government’s acquisition of Union Airways. It was originally overseen by Harbours Administration and South African Railways.

Various sanctions instigated by African countries forced the airline to introduce long-range aircraft to counter the restrictions.

In 1997, the company’s board undertook a considerable overhaul programme, whereby the airline’s name was changed, and online ticketing services were first introduced. South African Airways now operates as an independent airline after splitting from Transnet in 2006.

SAA not only has established links with South African Express and Airlink, but the company owns a low cost domestic airline known as Mango. It operates under the auspices of the Star Alliance membership programme.


South African Airways Destinations:

South African Airways currently flies to a total of 38 international destinations within 26 countries throughout Africa, Europe, Asia, North and South America, and Australasia.

The airline also has a particularly active presence in Southern Africa. SAA operates domestically to five cities, though their domestic and regional network is far more extensive given their affiliation with Mango, South African Express, and Airlink.

In 2010, the airline unveiled a further six routes in Africa, inclusive of Benin, Cotonou, Madigascar, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Burundi, and Abuja. Then, in early 2012, they began a service to Beijing, as part of their expansion of international routes. However, following on from financial difficulties, in 2015, the service to Beijing was terminated.


Current SAA Fleet:

As of January 2016, SAA’s fleet consists of the following aircraft:


Aircraft                              In service       Orders          Total Passengers         

Airbus A319-132               8                         —                   120

Airbus A320-232               12                      —                  138

Airbus A330-200               6                          —                  222

Airbus A330-300               —                       5

Airbus A340-300               8                          —                   215

Airbus A340-600               9                          —                   317

Boeing 737-800  7              —                       32                   157



SAA’s Frequent-flyer Program:

SAA’s frequent-flyer program is called Voyager. Besides South African Airlink, Swaziland Airlink, and South African Express Airways, all of whom share an alliance with SAA, there are a further 32 airlines that partner with Voyager, in addition to numerous businesses.

Voyager is comprised of five different tier status: Blue, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Lifetime Platinum.

In order to progress to the next tier up, members should fly on various selected flights which then allocate “Tier Miles”. On the other hand, the “Base Miles” programme does not tally up, but instead, can be used to receive awards.


Service Levels:


SAA A330-200 affords 186 economy class seats in a 2-4-2 configuration. SAA A340-300/600 provides 215 and 275 seats respectively in a configuration of 2-4-2.

Passengers receive a welcome pack, a full-size pillow, blanket and can use a personal touchscreen monitor together with on demand audio/video.

The SAA A320 seats 114 passengers. The SAA 737-800 provides seating for 125 passengers.


Business Class

The SAA A330-200 has 36 business class seats. The SAA A340-300/600 has 38 and 42 business class seats respectively, and both aircraft have a seating configuration of 2-2-2.

Passengers receive a welcome pack, together with a duvet, full-size pillow, and can use a personal touchscreen monitor together with on demand audio/video.

The South African Airways Airbus A320-200 and the Boeing 737-800 operate on domestic and regional flight routes. The A320 affords 24 business class seats and a 2-2 seating configuration. The 737-800 provides passengers with a total of 32 business class seats.


Free Baggage Allowance – Checked Baggage

It is advisable to check with the airline with respect to checked baggage allocation prior to booking your flight, given that various destinations carry alternative checked baggage allowances.