BY: Robin Rabec – Aviata News
In the heart of South Africa, where the Springbok is revered as a national emblem and the roar of rugby champions echoes through the nation’s soul, a resurgence is taking place. The pride and passion that come with sporting glory have been rekindled as the Springboks clinched their place at the top, once again reigning as Rugby World Cup champions. However, this resurgence isn’t confined to the rugby field alone. On the international stage, in the vast skies that connect nations, the iconic call sign “SPRINGBOK” has made a triumphant return. The revival of this symbol marks a significant chapter in the nation’s story, where the beloved South African Airways (SAA) rekindles its intercontinental services after an 11-year hiatus. It’s a tale of national pride and renewed connections, as the Springbok takes flight, linking South Africa to new horizons, and forging promising trade relations with Brazil. In this story, we explore the celebration of heritage and the strategic vision behind the re-emergence of a cherished national carrier, as SAA aims to soar once more as the flag bearer of South Africa’s skies.
The acclaim for the Springbok as the national Sports Emblem re-invigorated tremendous pride for many South Africans who were in rapture of the success of retaining glory as the Rugby World Cup champions.
But ironically in international airways another great Springbok icon has re emerged. The radio call sign SPRINGBOK has re emerged and will be fondly heard on some Intercontinental Air Routes.
On Tuesday 31 October the SAA flight, SPRINGBOK 266 called for “Push and Start” from Bay A6 at Cape Town International Airport. This the call sign for the 9hour flight from Cape Town to Sao Paulo in Brazil… recommenced SAA’s Intercontinental services.
The long awaited resurgence of the SAA service across international airways from Cape Town International Airport has been resumed after an absence of 11 years when SAA last operated it’s last intercontinental service from Cape Town International Airport.
It was on the 14th of August 2012 when SAA’s only direct non-stop service from Cape Town to London Heathrow Airport was finally discontinued. It was a lavish and imaginative launch ceremony at the Royal Cape Town Yacht Club, the home of the popular Cape to Rio Yacht Race. SAA formally celebrated the return of it’s popular service between South Africa and Sao Paulo in Brazil.
The dignitaries at the function included Minister of State Enterprise in South Africa, Pravin Gordhan, the Interim Chairman of the Board of SAA Derek Hanekom, as was South Africa’s Minister of Tourism Patricia da Lille and her Brazilian counter part, Ana Carla Machado Lopes and the Interim CEO of SAA, Prof John Lamola.
During the absence of more than 3 years since SAA ceased the operations of it’s direct non-stop service to Brazil there had been no alternative direct service from South Africa to Sao Paulo.
For many passengers the only option of a connection from Johannesburg to Brazil was via Europe to either Paris or Holland, alternatively repositioning through Doha or Dubai. These options came with lengthy “lay over” options and often 2 days of travel time. There had also been an alternative option of re positioning from Johannesburg via Luanda with possible “lay over” delays in Angola ?
Previously SAA operated as many as 10 flights per week from Johannesburg to Sao Paulo utilising wide body A330-300 or their A340-300 option of aircraft.
In keeping with the new approach by SAA of a conservative attitude, the airline has introduced a modest 4 of 9 hour non stop flights per week to Sao Paulo. These will be 2 mid day departures from Cape Town on either a Tuesday or a Saturday with the return flight arriving in Cape Town at the crack down the following morning, bearing in mind the time difference between SA and Sao Paulo is 5 hours. The Johannesburg option departs from the O R TAMBO airport either on Monday or Thursday at similar time schedules.
For passengers travelling from Brazil to South Africa, Cape Town and Johannesburg, serve as a gateway into the rest of other Southern Africa commercial hubs. The direct non-stop link to South Africa will especially serves as the quickest and shortest link to the Middle and Far East countries through connections from South Africa.
Prof Lamola indicated the Brazil route facilitates numerous export and import opportunities and augments existing trade relations between the two countries. SAA will operate a wide body fleet of aircraft with sufficient space to load palletised cargo and provide faster movement of goods, whether it is general cargo, pharmaceuticals, or high value cargo, boosting the movement of time-sensitive goods.
Reflecting on how far the airline has come over the past two years in its mission to re-entrench itself as the country’s proud national carrier and flag bearer, Prof John Lamola, says when SAA took to the skies again in 2021, it had a solid strategy in place. “It has not been an easy journey, but since inception the airline with a new lease of life has accrued over 9,000 commercial flights to date which bears testimony to the success of following a conservative approach to developing the airline into a profitable and stable entity.
When asked why the choice of Brazil was chosen as the first intercontinental route Prof Lamola replied, this decision was the result of an informed economic and rigorous market analysis, but also by considerations of the strategic linkages of South Africa in the context of the country’s association with Brazil and its membership of membership of BRICS nations.”
Questioned on SAA’s plans for acquisition and modernizing its fleet of aircraft, Prof Lamola emphasised further developments in this regard will come through decisions made by the much vaunted Equity partnership which the airline will soon entering into.
However Prof Lamola emphasised the airline would consider operating various other aircraft types and will not necessarily confined to relying on a single manufacturer for the supply of aircraft operated by the airline.
Prof Lamola also indicated the flag carrier will continue to grow its international presences and not likely to compete on any domestic routes other than operating among other domestic carriers in South Africa on the ever popular Johannesburg – Cape Town service.