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South African Airways (SA)

South African Airways is the preferred choice for travellers to and from Johannesburg and Cape Town. This airline has a long history that dates back to 1934 when its first flight took off from Durban to Cape Town. Today South African Airways is a member of Star Alliance and has major code-share agreements with United Airlines.

Identity Card

  • IATA code: SA
  • Number of serviced cities: 37 destinations
  • Main hub: OR Tambo International Airport (JNB) and Cape Town International Airport (CPT)
  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Fleet: 54 aircraft
  • Loyalty rewards program: Voyager

History of South African Airways

South African Airways is the national airline of South Africa with hubs in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The airline was founded on the first of February in 1934 when the South African government bought Union Airways and renamed it South African Airways. The first destinations were Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. The airline began operating international flights to Kenya and Uganda in the late 1930s. The airline ceased operations during the Second World War and restarted domestic services in 1944. For the first time, South African Airways flew to Europe (Bournemouth, England) in 1945.

In the 1950s the airline entered the jet age by adding Boeing 707 aircraft, making it the first airline outside of Europe to operate this type of jet airliner. In 1957 a route to Perth, Australia was added to the network. The airline experienced some difficulties in the 1970s and 1980s as some countries did not allow South African Airways to use their airspace and many countries did not want to trade economically with South Africa, making it increasingly difficult to keep up with the rest of the airline industry. Due to the apartheid, all South African-owned carriers were banned from operating flights to the USA as well as Australia. These routes were reinstated in the 1990s. The airline went through a re-branding process in the late 1990s, welcoming the 2000s with new colours and a new design. Recently South African Airways has joined Star Alliance, bought 49% of Air Tanzania and became the first non-Saudi airline to operate a direct flight to Medina, Saudi Arabia.

Travel with South African Airways: practical information

  • Onboard Services

    • Meals: Meals feature dishes from around the world, served on china, paired with South African wines.
    • Entertainment: Passengers enjoy a wide variety of movies, music, television stations, radio, games and much more on personal entertainment systems.
  • Baggage Allowances

    • Cabin: Passengers may bring 1 piece of cabin luggage onboard. It should not be larger than 115 cm (length + width + height) and no heavier than 8 kg in weight.
    • Checked: Depending on destination, South African Airlines has two baggage policies. The first is the piece concept: passengers may bring 2 pieces of luggage, each weighing up to 23 kg. The other is the weight concept: each passenger may check up to 20 kg of luggage.
    • Excess: Generally each excess kilo is charged at a rate of 1.5% of a normal adult Economy fare. In some circumstances excess weight is charged at the rate of €30 / kilo.

Discounts and Special Offers

South African Airways offers many great discounted fares throughout the year. You can search for all of South African Airways’ special offers on to any of their destinations.


Telephone: 0871 722 1111

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