South African Airways (SAA) is the principal airline of South Africa and the largest airline in Africa in terms of fleet size and capitalisation.


South African Airways was established by the government of South Africa on February 1, 1934, after nationalising the privately-run Union Airways. It flew a fleet of Junkers JU-52s domestically and over the next ten years extended its coverage to Uganda and Kenya, and by 1945 established a regular service to Britain, using a reconfigured Arvo York bomber. South Africa acquired Boeing 707s in 1960 and expanded its services to Europe (flying non-stop to Britain in 1962).

Later the airline would become one of the few airlines in the world to serve all continents, but the jet age coincided with a new era where the apartheid policies of Hendrik Verwoerd's government beaome universally despised. Newly independent African states not only refused South African Airways landing rights to their countries, but also denied access to their airspace. Consequently the airline was forced to take a circuitous route to Europe along the West African coast, stopping over in the unmissible Cape Verde Islands until long range Boeing 747SP aircraft were utilised. Furthermore the United States and Australia imposed sanctions on South African Airways, denying the airline the rights to serve their countries (the Europeans and Asians were less squeamish about trading with the apartheid regime). As a sign of the times, SAA was flying to Taipei and Tel Aviv, cities in similiarly pariah states that South Africa sought out as trading and political allies.

After the return of South Africa to the international community in 1990, the airline was rebranded to reflect the new vibrancy and openness of the country. Out went the springbok emblem, the Suid-Afrikaanse Lugdiens signage on the fuselage and the discordant orange, white and blue colour scheme that reflected the old flag of South Africa. Instead the new livery was based on the new South African flag interposed with the sun. The airline refocussed its strategy towards Africa, opening new routes in the continent while investing in Air Tanzania. It also joined the Star Alliance and became the first airline of a non-Islamic country to offer hadj services to Saudi Arabia.


South African Airways established in 1994 SA Express Airways to serve South Africa domestically, using Canadair jets and De Havilland Dash turboprops. The following year South African Airways and a consortia of private airlines established SA Airlink, to serve as a feeder network in southern Africa. SA Airlink uses Jetstream 41 aircraft.

Fleet (as of November 2005)

21 x Boeing 737-800
11 x Airbus A319-100
9 x Airbus A340-600
8 x Boeing 747-400
8 x Boeing 737-200 (excluding freighers)
6 x Airbus A340-200
3 x Airbus A340-300

Network (as of November 2005, excluding code shares using other airline's aircraft)

Western Africa

Dakar, Senegal
Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire
Accra, Ghana
Lagos, Nigeria
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Eastern Africa

Port Louis, Mauritius
Entebbe, Uganda
Kigali, Rwanda
Nairobi, Kenya
Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
Zanzibar, Tanzania

Southern Africa

Luanda, Angola
Windhoek, Namibia
Warvis Bay, Namibia
Ndola, Zambia
Lusaka, Zambia
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Harare, Zimbabwe
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
Beira, Mozambique
Maputo, Mozambique
Manzini, Swaziland
Livingstone, Botswana
Gaborone, Botswana
Lilongwe, Malawi
Blantyre, Malawi
Maseru, Lethoso
and several locations in South Africa.


Perth, Australia
Mumbai, India
Hong Kong, China


London, Great Britain
Paris, France
Milan, Italy
Zurich, Switzerland
Frankfurt, Germany

North America

New York, United States
Atlanta, United States
Washington DC, United States

South America

Sao Paulo, Brazil


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