State-owned South African Airways (SAA) has finally officially confirmed its first intercontinental connections since the Covid lockdowns and its business rescue, announcing on Thursday that it is launching two direct routes – from both Cape Town and Johannesburg – to Brazil’s financial hub of São Paulo in October and November.
SAA, which is on the verge of being taken over by the Takatso Consortium (majority shareholders, but the government will still own a sizeable stake), said flight ticket sales have already commenced.
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The double route move to São Paulo – Brazil’s most populous city – comes somewhat as a surprise, with Cape Town getting its first SAA international route in several years.
Moneyweb understands the last international flights the flag carrier had out of the Mother City was back in 2012, with the Cape Town- London route.
A first for the Mother City
Deon Cloete, former general manager of Cape Town International Airport, told Moneyweb on Friday that as far as he is aware, Cape Town has never had a direct route with scheduled flights to São Paulo and a South American city before.
“SAA is thrilled to announce the airline’s first intercontinental route to Sao Paulo, Brazil operating direct flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg. This will be SAA’s first long-haul route since the airline returned to the skies in 2021,” it said in a statement.
The announcement of the ‘new’ routes to Brazil comes as South Africa is set to host the Brics Summit of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA economic bloc in August in Sandton, Johannesburg.
SAA last had a direct route to the South American country in early 2020, with Johannesburg-São Paulo flights.
Launch flights to start later this year
According to SAA, bookings for the new routes opened for sale on 29 June, with launch flights out of Cape Town on Tuesday, 31 October, and from Johannesburg on Monday, 6 November 2023.
“We are overjoyed to announce São Paulo as our first international destination since the airline emerged from an intensive business rescue process and Covid-19 lockdown,” said SAA interim CEO Professor John Lamola.
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“The teams at SAA are working hard behind the scenes and gear our operations for this much-anticipated route launch to South America,” he added.
SAA will fly into Guarulhos International Airport in São Paulo four times a week, commencing in the third quarter of the 2023/24 financial year. The various transport networks, including taxis, buses, subways, and railway lines, are well-served in both countries, it said.
The airline has appointed Air Promotion Group (APG) in Brazil as its General Sales Agent (GSA).
“Our decision to begin the relaunch of our long-haul service with São Paulo was taken based on a rigorous analysis of the route’s viability. Sustainability has been at the heart of SAA’s approach since our restart,” said Lamola.
“As the national flag carrier, SAA prides itself on bringing South African hospitality to international routes, and travellers to and from the São Paulo route can expect to experience our award-winning customer service,” added Lamola.
Biggest financial hubs
SAA said that São Paulo is one of the biggest financial hubs in the world.
“It is an ideal destination for business or leisure, offering a vast selection of first-rated museums, cultural centres, theatres, and cinemas. It also boasts world-class nightclubs, bars, and restaurants.”
SAA’s interim board chair Derek Hanekom reiterated the airline’s expansion intentions during a recent interview on the Moneyweb@Midday podcast show, saying SAA is in-line to become profitable this year.
Besides São Paulo, the airline is reportedly considering re-establishing a route to Perth in Australia. It has recently recommenced several of its key regional routes into Africa.
This article originally appeared on Moneyweb and was republished with permission.
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