South African Airways Slashes Routes in Fight for Survival

South African Airways A320 cabin
South African Airways A320 cabin

South African Airways will cut many of its international destinations, and all domestic routes except one, from next month.

The airline’s flight from Perth to Johannesburg is safe for now, but there will be a schedule change from 1 March 2020. Instead of operating overnight, SA281 will depart Perth at 2.30pm and arrive in Johannesburg at 7.15pm.

South African Airways, which has already been facing financial difficulties for years, was placed into business rescue in December 2018. The business rescue team has defended these route cuts – and the many other flight cancellations made in recent months – as necessary to conserve cash and make the business more sustainable.

All of South African Airways’ domestic routes except for Johannesburg-Cape Town (which will operate at reduced capacity from next month) will be axed after 29 February 2020. This includes flights from Johannesburg to Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London. Flights operated by Mango, SAA’s low-cost subsidiary, will continue to operate. Passengers booked on affected domestic services will be re-booked on Mango flights or offered a refund.

From 1 March 2020, South African Airways will also cancel its flights from Johannesburg to Hong Kong, Guangzhou, São Paulo, Munich, Luanda, Entebbe, Abidjan via Accra and Ndola. Customers on affected flights will be given refunds.

Among other implications, this will leave LATAM Airlines with a monopoly on flights between South Africa and South America.

These are the destinations served by South African Airways in February 2020:

South African Airways route map in February 2020
South African Airways route map in February 2020

And here are the remaining South African Airways routes from March 2020:

South African Airways route map in March 2020
South African Airways route map in March 2020

In a statement, the airline said that “SAA does not intend to make any further significant network changes. Passengers and travel agents can therefore feel confident about booking future travel with South African Airways.”

Although these route cancellations do not apply until March, the Star Alliance member has already cancelled almost 100 flights during February.

The route cancellations come just weeks South African Airways’ brand new Airbus A350s entered service. The airline has just started flying these new planes to New York and Frankfurt.

Airlink, which is a privately-owned franchise partner of South African Airways, has announced that it will take over South African Airways’ routes to Port Elizabeth, Luanda, Ndola and Entebbe after SAA withdraws on 29 February.

Meanwhile, SA Express was also placed into business rescue over the weekend by the Johannesburg High Court. SA Express is an affiliate airline of South African Airways and operates regional flights.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: South African Airways ‘near bankruptcy’

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]