SAA will resume direct flights to Australia in late April this year.
- You can now book flights on SAA’s relaunched Johannesburg to Perth route.
- SAA is offering some pretty good launch details – with some savings of more than R10,000, before they level out later in the year.
- If you’ve been eyeing a trip to Australia, now might be the time to book.
South African Airways last month announced that it would resume direct operations to Australia – with the first flights departing for Perth in late April.
The non-stop nine-and-a-half-hour flight will operate three times a week on an SAA Airbus A340-300 aircraft, configured to carry 38 passengers in business class and 215 in economy.
SAA started scaling back on the route to Perth in 2018 due to low demand and the need for aircraft rotations on other routes. The scaled-back offering closed entirely after SAA’s financial struggles and during the Covid-19 pandemic.
But in an announcement this week, SAA CEO John Lamola said the resumption of the route is in line with the airline’s plans to become profitable once again “by leveraging SAA’s unique capabilities as a national carrier with wide-body aircraft that can provide South Africa with long-haul intercontinental air connectivity.”
The Perth route is SAA’s second significant announcement in the last six months, with the launch of flights to São Paulo, Brazil in October last year. As a result, SAA now offers a Southern Hemisphere travel package from Perth to São Paulo through to Johannesburg.
“Besides the global interconnectivity potential of this route, Perth has long been a favoured destination for South African and Australian travellers, with approximately 80% of our target market being visiting family and friends,” Lamola said.
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“The recommencement of the route provides an easier and direct passage for both leisure and business travellers, promoting trade and cultural exchange between South Africa and Australia”.
Perth Airport is equally enthusiastic about the development. The airport says, “The return of South African Airways to Perth Airport is testament to the airline’s resilient efforts and our continued partnership over 60 years.”
“This is great news for Perth and Western Australian residents who have family connections in South Africa and for those looking to tick off a travel experience on their bucket list to such a vibrant country and explore the African continent,” a spokesperson for Perth Airport said.
Cheap launch fares – and faster flying times
SAA is the only airline to operate a direct flight between Perth and Johannesburg, but indirect options exist between the two destinations throughout recent years.
Australian airline Qantas continues to service a direct 14-hour flight between Sydney and Johannesburg – sometimes at a considerable cost, with some fares reaching upwards of R26,000 return.
In response, South African Airways has come in with launch fares that are considerably cheaper – in some cases, undercutting the competition by up to 50%, or R15,000.
Routes with stopovers in destinations like Singapore and Qatar are also an option. Although these fares are usually cheaper than Qantas’s, they have long flying times and extended layovers.
A cheap flight return to Perth via Singapore later this year, for example, costs R16,735 – but requires a total travel time of 17 hours, about seven hours more and only about R1,500 cheaper than flying direct.
As the year continues and launch fares wear off, the cost of flying to Sydney with Qantas and Perth with SAA reaches equilibrium.
If a trip to Australia is on your radar this year, then May is a good time to book. After that, selecting your airline based on your end destination may be a better strategy to avoid notoriously pricey internal flights.
Here’s how SAA’s return fares to Australia compare for 2024