The Situation in South Africa

Hey Guys
So I was having an argument with some guy at school who says that South African Airways is the best airline in Africa, which it used to be, but as most know, South Africa is on a downslide, the economy has become worthless, But let’s not start a political talk.
South African Airways is going to be the next Air India, I flew SAA last year from Cape Town to Durban (A320). The cabin was in not so-great condition, the one or two overhead monitors were falling off and were litteraly hanging by cables from the ceiling. Half way through the flight we returned to FACT due to an engine problem. We were delayed for 5 hours before another aircraft arrived, and to my amazement, the flight was delayed again due to an issue with the brakes.
Flight was canceled and there was a whole lot of drama.
I later found out that these two aircraft had not been for maintaining for 10 months straight, these aircraft were being worn down by non-stop flying. It was obvious why they had not been serviced for such a long time.
R5.5 Billion rand profit loss in 2016/17

USD: $455 840 000,00

Look, I’m no economist
But recently there has been an improvement in the quality of the airline, due to a major scale down on route, mainly international, last month, SAA halved its flights to and from London Heathrow, and will soon be terminating their route to and from Luanda, They also scaled down the route frequency from Johannesburg to JFK.

Last year, Skytrax rated SAA the 49th best airline in the world, making it the second best in Africa, and Ethiopian Airways was rated 48th, making it the best in Africa.

But my question is, if you have been to South Africa, you will strangely notice British Airways 737’s,

These are operated by Comair Limited
But they operate in the normal livery, with the exact same classes as the ‘real’ British Airways, they operate a fleet of 737-400’s, 737-800’s, 737-8LD and possibly, soon the 737-8 Max, which Comair has placed orders for, but Comair also operates Kulula, so they may go there.
Comair operates routes domestically in South Africa and a small amount of International route.
But since they are a sole airline that operates for British Airways, and if you look back at that charge I showed you, British Airways is rated number 40, does that make BA the best airline in Africa?

Share your opionion!


Credit to


I actually found this quite interesting…
I had no idea about how bad this was. Thanks for filling us in!


You are well informed about the state of affairs at SAA. Unfortunately, they have been infested by politics, and involving the past president. Over the years, they have been dropping in Skytrax ratings, at some point about three years ago, they were number 24. Ethiopian Airways, and Kenya Airways in my opinion, are leading airlines in Africa currently.

To make matters worse, RyanAir and Emirates have visited the country to recruit experienced pilots.

But, I hope even the new generation of pilots are also good because you usually hear of a new pilot every now and then on flights, plus what’s comforting is that the training they get is top class.

Political influence has been eradicated at SAA now and they have a new CEO now, who brief media about the turn around strategy they need to work on, and we can only hope at the moment that it will work and will bring SAA to the top again. It won’t be easy, though.

To answer your question about BA: The parent company, BA, is an international airline and cannot be ranked in Africa. Comair, though, a BA subsidiary registered in South Africa, operates domestic BA South Africa and, which can be ranked in SA, and they are not ranked at the top at the moment.


Yeah, When I flew to Dubai in 2016 I had South African captains on 3 on my 4 flights, A 777 to Dubai and 2 A380’s to and from Londone.
Although due to the whole political issues with the country, it has left the airline nearly impossible to bring it back to its former glory. In my opinion, if they were to be bought by a larger and more successful airline such as Emirates or Etihad, it would be beneficial on both sides, SAA would be profitable again and Emirates/Etihad would increase their already skyrocketing profits by a small amount.

My dad was recruited by Qatar and even got offers for Emirates. My dad chose Qatar because Emirates was already in the process of removing the A330. He left because he was not getting the pay wages he was expecting, and a lot of First Officers were inexperienced and would sometimes dose off on long haul flights as FO. My dad got this guy fired.

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Here’s the thing about SAA, they think they’re still great using the standards set 5 years ago. So they just slack off and don’t even look for improvement.

Their fleet is pretty old I must say, a full (old) Airbus 330/340 long haul fleet is not really helping them in any situation. Especially with the 340 fuel consumption problems.

Emirates, Qatar, Etihad, Ryanair, Easyjet or even Lufthansa from what I’ve heard started recruiting people. They offer what an employee will like today and this is just a business strategy. Iirc Emirates flies like 5 times to JNB alone and Qatar 3 making it a pretty big power house for them.

Their internal conflict within South Africa is also striking them hard. Comair operates a full BA like fleet and as you know BA as much as they suck in Europe is like the top tier airline in South Africa thanks to SAA’s ignorance.

People just seem to have given up on SAA. My opinion the best airline is Africa so far has to go to Ethiopian followed by a close 2nd of Egyptair

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Their 320 fleet is pretty old as well. Their 737’s are really old.

I call this the “African Airline Slump”. South African Airways is not the only airline that is going through this phase. Kenya Airways and Air Namibia are having a very similar situation. Both are slowly recovering as well. The problem is there just isn’t a large enough demand for the airlines to become profitable. Quite frankly, there’s only a small population in Sub-Saharan Africa that can afford flight tickets. It’s likely these airline suffer the same fate as Air Zimbabwe, Zambian Airlines, and Air Gabon.

It’s terrible because I love/loved these airlines…

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They have new A330s though, and the business class is top notch. Unfortunately, there’s only 5 of them. They received them on a swop deal in exchange for 10 A320s that they were supposed to receive in 2010 with the aim to improve their financial status. 20 x A320s were bought and 10 were received. Corrupt board members sold them immediately and leased them back. The other 10 were exchanged for 5 x A330s.

As for A340s, they are really old. Worse is passengers have also been complaining about bad service from crew. So, there is a lot of work to do there. They have a good chance to recover though. All government departments and state owned entities have it in their policies that their staff only fly SAA.

This was also tried once, but corruption got in the way and the plan never even took off. Nico Bazeidenhout was the CEO then and he left.


Completely upset about that, and I do have to disagree.

Definitely not, they don’t operate under one license, forgot what you call the license.

Regarding your starting paragraph I do have to disagree with you. From my multiple experiences with SAA they have been the best. I flew Ethiopian recently and the only good thing I have to say after the flights were the crew.

The issue here is corruption, Zuma stole from the country. Since he did that the high ranking officials in SAA thought that they could do the same. With the new CEO Vuyani Jarana in power, I feel as if SAA will be turned around to be the best in Africa again. Certain officials within SAA were suspended due to corruption charges, this shows a change for good.

Vuyani helped get a Vodacom out of the dumps, and turned it round (I am not to sure whether it was Vodacom itself or a subsidiary).

I will go so far to say that I would still rank SAA as the best in Africa from my experiences, along with Mango. They are my choice of airlines along with United.

I feel as if this is a controversial topic, because people who don’t live in South Africa wouldn’t understand the whole situation. Personal opinion.

Nothing beats African hospitality.

Mango is a profitable airline and is also taking over some of SAA’s routes from what I’ve heard.

This is my personal opinion about the situation.


The crews on SAA are unfriendly, infact, I was traveling to johannesburg with my mom last year, on SAA, during meal service, the FA infact threw the food on the table, no litteraly throw it, but instead of putting in on the table, she threw it on the table.

Thats a very controversial statement, you can’t say that everyone is bad. I have flown SAA on multiple occasions and the crews have been very friendly towards me. I am still in contact with one of the crew members from my flight.

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Generally speaking, and with a few exceptions (such as SAA), the future of aviation in the region looks promising.

People are getting richer with time, and the middle class is exploding in many countries. This will make a great opportunity for African Airlines.

We’re going off aviation topic with what I’m about to say, but just this time.
The only problem with Africa is that most communities are rural and refuse to change their traditions, with the further construction of airports, locals get mad because people are taking their land.
Right now, the quickest way to get SAA back on track would be to sell it to a major airline that can run it.
The main reason for the downfall in corruption in the government, Everything here went to [you know what] after he our previous president came into power, the cabinet he elected were corrupted and did a whole lot economic things involving stealing. While this is improving, there is no enforced justice system, you get away easily with corruption here because people want power.

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I couldn’t agree more especially with many airlines (Kenyan, Egyptair) coming out of losses. It’s a matter of time before SAA becomes profitable again. Good decisions and transparency is the way in which a profit can be earned.


Just landed on a fully booked flight. So, it’s not all doom and gloom. If only they can close the corruption hole on their purse, they will recover quickly.

I forgot to check in online and was left with a seat at the back by the time I remembered

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Not necessarily, it’s more of an issue of being able to afford the flight. As been previously said, the middle class is growing.

Nigeria is a good example, low-wealth class won’t fly and that’s the majority of the population. The small but growing medium class, and the high-wealth class.

Low -cost carriers such as Jambojet and Fastjet as well as Kulula and SAA’s Mango are changing that.

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The monsters hanging from their cables made it sound very bad indeed. I wouldn’t trust SAA if I was flying like that

Finally someone mentions Comair 😃. Love the BA livery on the 737 family. However, as a wholely-owned subsidiary of BA I don’t know whether they follow the same procedures and staff training as BA and therefore whether they have they same quality


Wow, staggering losses, that is a huge cashflow problem. Clearly having major issues filling seats on the highly competitive routes. In which case, a retrenchment strategy was great decision. Hopefully it pays of for the airline!

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