As the future of South African Airways looks dimmer by the day, with numerous routes being cut from the end of February, local airlines like FlySafair and Airlink are filling the gap and establishing themselves as two of the air carriers to watch.
Airlink, which flies 55 routes to 39 destinations in 9 African countries, has the largest fleet of commercial jetliners in Southern Africa, according to CEO Rodger Foster. The airline will soon be adding other destinations, such as Entebbe and Luanda, not only to fill the gap left by SAA but also as part of its growth strategy.
Flysafair, which started in 2014, existed before as Safair. It flies 9 Boeing 737s between the main South African centres of Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, George, Durban and East London. The airline recently was judged the most punctual airline in Africa and the Middle East.
Other major players remain the JSE-listed Comair, which owns kulula. In a January shakeup Comair announced the appointment of four new directors to its board, as well as numerous other senior people in management. The fate of SAA’s budget carrier, Mango, seems to be clouded by what is happening at the national carrier.
Airlink, flying to Zambia, Madagascar, Mozambique and Namibia, as well as St. Helena island, carried almost 2-million passengers in 2019 on more than 63,000 flights with a 94 percent on-time performance record.
In a letter to Business Day today, Foster said the airline, now in its 28th year of operation, was “financially robust and reliable.”
A 2.9 percent stake in the airline that was acquired by the now beleaguered South African Airways in 2000 ends on June 10, and Airlink has offered to buy it back.
Headquartered in Johannesburg, Airlink employs more than 1,700 people.