South African Airways (SAA) has begun flying directly to Mumbai, India, using a new Airbus A330-200. The airline flies to Mumbai from Johannesburg four times a week.
SAA received the first of six A330-200s leased from AirCastle in February. The twin-engine wide-body aircraft will replace SAA’s six ageing A340-200s leased from Airbus in 2003.
International Relations spokesperson Clayson Monyela welcomed the introduction of the flights, saying that they will go a long way to further improving trade relations with the people of India, BuaNews reports.
“We know that the more we improve on products and services, including experience, the more the chances of increasing volumes and spending. The new product in the market augurs well for our drive of growing our economy and creating jobs for our people and should be welcomed,” added Monyela.
SAA General Manager: Commercial, Theunis Potgieter, said the Johannesburg-Mumbai route was vital in strengthening the airline’s international route network, effectively supporting the country’s thriving tourism and business markets.
“Over and above providing connectivity, our valued customers can look forward to an enhanced product and the added comfort and convenience offered by this impressive aircraft,” said Potgieter.
The South African Consulate in Mumbai congratulated SAA for introducing the A330-200 on the Mumbai route. In a statement released on Tuesday, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) said that the Consul General, HE. Pule Malefane, together with Hannelie Slabber from South African Tourism Office, received the new aircraft on its maiden flight in Mumbai.
“The new Airbus entrenches SAAs commitment in offering an enhanced service to customers travelling between India and South Africa, and also adding value to our efforts of encouraging more business visitors to explore the opportunities available in the country,” the DIRCO statement read.
The new Airbus flights to Mumbai are part of SAA’s ambitious route expansion plans, which also involve several African countries. Chief executive Siza Mzimela said earlier this month that SAA would start flights to Abuja in Nigeria, Madagascar, the Republic of Congo and Burundi, whilst also growing in South America, Asia and India.
“We are beginning to see open skies and we want to understand how this will impact on us and also the opportunities it will bring. But also important is opening up Africa for Africa, that has been lacking,” Mzimela said. “The focus on the continent is important.”
“We have also looked at how we can add frequency to Entebbe (Uganda), Harare and sometimes operating wider (200 to 250 seats) aircraft to Nairobi,” Mzimela said. Nigeria is also an important market, and SAA recently opened a lounge there. Potgieter told IOL that they would offer two to three flights a week to Abuja, Nigeria, on a smaller aircraft.
From September 1, SAA will commence direct services between Johannesburg and Beijing. Flights will be carried out using an A340-600 capable of carrying 379 passengers in a three-class cabin layout. At the moment travellers have to travel by way of Hong Kong, Singapore or even Europe to get to Beijing. SAA flies to Beijing from Cairo at present.
From the first of this month, the South African Airways flight from New York to Johannesburg became a non-stop flight. Previously the A340-300 had to top in Dakar, Senegal, to refuel, but since changing to a longer-ranged A340-600 the aircraft can fly straight to New York, saving approximately 90 minutes of journey time.
Due to increasing demand from Africa, the airline said it would increase the number of flights between Johannesburg and Windhoek, Namibia, from March 27.
The flag carrier also announced it would increase the frequency of its flights to Entebbe, Uganda from March 29, and add additional flights to Harare, Zimbabwe from the same date. Domestically, SAA has increased seats available on the Johannesburg to Cape Town routes.
SAA has plans to use its low cost Mango division as part of its growth strategy and will commence Mango flights from Lanseria in July. “We are also looking to see if there is a role that Mango can play to open up tourist destinations like Mombasa (Kenya) and Zanzibar,” Mzimela said. She added that, “there is still a lot of work to be done.”