Direct flights to Guangzhou on the cards

SAA has applied for licences to operate scheduled flights to Guangzhou, China, and Addu City, Maldives, as well as flights to Serbia, Sudan, and Ukraine.

The applications are for flights from OR Tambo International Airport, Cape Town International Airport and King Shaka International Airport.

According to Tlali Tlali, SAA spokesperson, the applications were primarily aimed at addressing enhancements to the airline’s existing codeshares. “They were not requested with the intention for SAA to commence operating in those markets or destinations.”

However, the direct flights to Guangzhou could be operated by SAA.

Tlali says: “In order to be able to serve any destination in a specific country one has to hold the underlying traffic rights for the number of weekly frequencies that it wants to operate to the specific destination. Should the intention be to only offer codeshare services, only one weekly frequency is required.”

The application made in September last year is for four weekly return flights to Guangzhou; and daily return flights to Addu City. The other applications are for one return flight to Belgrade in Serbia, Khartoum in Sudan and Kiev in Ukraine.

SAA has also applied for codeshares on flights to Aracaju and Joao Pessoa in Brazil as well as Kisumu and Mombasa in Kenya.

Tlali explains that if an airline already holds the underlying traffic rights for a destination in a specific country, only a codeshare licence for the “new” destination is required.

He confirms that the codeshares on these routes would be with Latam and Kenya Airways respectively and adds that SAA will provide further updates in due course.

Kumedie Naicker, manager at Sure Epcot Travel, says direct flights to Guangzhou are needed, adding that there are not many attractive connections.

She says clients travelling to Guangzhou would usually connect via Singapore or Hong Kong, or via the Gulf, because there are no direct flights.

Yishan Chiem, of Cyrildene Travel Agency, agrees that there is significant demand for direct flights to Guangzhou. She adds that since SAA’s flights to Hong Kong changed from a 17h20 departure to a 23h20 departure, the flights do not have convenient connections in China, so that transiting passengers often have to spend a night in Hong Kong.

Because SAA does not fly to Beijing and Air China’s thrice-weekly service to Beijing is via Shenzhen, the flight time is 17-18 hours to Beijing, Kumedie adds. SAA’s flight was about 15 hours.

She adds that Air China is difficult to get hold of and agents have to go through another agent to purchase fares.

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