State-owned airline SAA carried 6.9 million passengers in the year ending March 2016.
South African Airways’ turn-a-round strategy to get the ailing airline to a point of financial stability has been on going, with some controversial decisions over the years.
At the centre of it has been "route rationalisation".
The most recent addition is the direct service between Johannesburg and Guangzhou, expected to be a major boost for the ariline's cargo operations, as well as spur business connectivity between the two destinations.
Speaking to Traveller24, SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali says, “We would like to bring the airline to financial sustainability in the shortest time possible and we have given ourselves a period of three years in which we should be breaking even".
During the 2017/2018 financial year, the airline focused specifically on its "network and capacity redistribution".
This included a takeover from Mango of some of the airline's domestic routes, as well as cutting flights on its Port Elizabeth and East London routes and cancelling flights on six of its regional destinations due to "operational reasons," namely Brazzaville via Pointe Noire in the Congo; Douala in Cameroon via Libreville in Gabon; Kinshasa in the DRC; Entebbe in Uganda; Luanda in Angola; Cotonou in Benin via Libreville in Gabon.
READ: SAA cuts flight frequency to London from JHB
SAA also increased its flight capacity to Mauritius, in January 2018.
Tlali says the Johannesburg to London route - which was “not performing well” - also formed part of its routes realignment by bringing on a new product offering and reducing its flight frequency, “in order to operate much more efficiently and remain competitive and relevant to market dynamics”.
"We are continuously reassessing our data and analysis of route performance, looking at the performance of the individual routes and whether the performance is positive or not. This allowed us to motivate for the Guangzhou route."
So with China now on track with two entry points and the fastest direct connection with Guangzhou, what about the cumbersome connectivity for South Africans to India?
In January President Cyril Ramaphosa called for the re-establishment of a direct flight between South Africa and India - during a round-table discussion with business leaders from both South Africa and India.
READ: Ramaphosa: We want direct SAA flight route to India back
News24 quotes the president as saying, “Yes, you would like this rigmarole of when travelling (from Indai), going to Dubai, Europe, [or] London as you come to South Africa to come to an end”. In 2015, the Gupta family influenced SAA into relinquishing its route to India to Indian airline Jet Airways. The president, without mentioning the Gupta family, said he didn't know why the route was ever cancelled.
Tlali acknowledged the president's call for it to be re-instated saying, "To re-instate or launch a new route is an involved process. This is work that is currently underway."
"Any carrier needs to satisfy itself that the decision you are making to reinstate a service is properly considered, is commercially viable for the current market, so that is part of the work now being done."
"We will make an announcement in the appropriate time when we have finalised our work into looking at the viability of reinstating the Mumbai route," says Tlali.
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