South African Airways to return to mainland China

Four years after operating its last service to mainland China, South African Airways is set to return to the market later this year. It is also negotiating a codeshare agreement with Hong Kong Airlines.

South African Airways (SAA) has confirmed plans to open direct flights between Johannesburg and Guangzhou, the south China manufacturing hub and host of World Routes in 2018.

The national carrier is to operate a three-weekly service between the two destinations using Airbus A340-300 aircraft. It will start on 18 September 2019.

“The decision to launch this direct service between Johannesburg and Guangzhou means we remain on track in executing our strategy to transform SAA into a fit for the future airline that will operate both efficiently and competitively,” said SAA chief executive Vuyani Jarana (pictured right at Routes Africa 2018).  

“Adding a direct service to mainland China, combined with our current popular flights to Hong Kong provides SAA with immense growth opportunities to and from mainland China. It also gives our traders access to the centre of Chinese manufacturing.”

SAA will be the only carrier operating a direct service between OR Tambo International Airport and Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, with flight time of approximately 13 hours and 40 minutes. It last served mainland China until March 2015 with flights between Johannesburg and Beijing Capital.

The airline currently operates a seven-weekly Johannesburg - Hong Kong route, but this will become four-weekly once Johannesburg - Guangzhou launches. It has interline agreements with China Southern Airlines, China Eastern, Air China and Hainan Airlines.

The only other carrier serving the South Africa - mainland China market is Air China, with a three-weekly service between Johannesburg and Shenzhen using Boeing 777-300 aircraft.

Guangzhou is the largest city in the Guangdong province in South China and the third largest Chinese city after Beijing and Shanghai. It is an important transportation hub and trading port, located on the Pearl River about 120km Northwest of Hong Kong.

Jarana added: “We are confident that the introduction of this route is based on sound commercial considerations and will not only benefit SAA but South Africa as a whole as China is the largest source market in Asia. It is also South Africa’s largest trading partner in the world.”

According to figures from Sabre Market Intelligence, O&D traffic between South Africa and China has increased by 75 percent since 2013, rising to 256,416 passengers in 2018.

SAA is also negotiating a codeshare agreement with Hong Kong Airlines, expected to be in place this financial year. Hong Kong Airlines will codeshare on SAA’s Hong Kong - Johannesburg sector and provide feeder traffic from Japan, Korea, Philippines and China.

Read more: 
Routes Podcast: South African Airways' CEO Vuyani Jarana
World Routes to "enhance Guangzhou's image on the global stage"
Asia dominates list of fastest-growing airports
Airline in focus: South African Airways

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