SAA returns to Argentina amid world expansion
South African Airways (SAA) next July will return to Argentina ÃÂ¢€ a market it stopped serving in 2001 partly due to high-operating costs at Buenos Aires' Ezeiza international airport ÃÂ¢€ with three flights a week, and increase weekly flights to Sao Paulo from seven to 10, to have a dual gateway to South America.
The announcement was made on Friday in Buenos Aires by SAA' South American unit head Nelson de Oliveira, who told MercoPress that the airline is in talks with Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 ÃÂ¢€" the company running Ezeiza ÃÂ¢€" to lower Ezeiza's costs. Buenos Aires will become SAA's second entry point to South America after Sao Paulo. The company is also considering adding Rio de Janeiro as a third destination in the area the near future. The flights to Argentina are scheduled for Wednesday, Fridays and Sundays. Flights from South Africa to Argentina will take nine-and-a-half hours while the trip back to South Africa will take two more hours due to winds' patterns. To serve Buenos Aires SAA will use Airbus 340-200. De Oliveira said that SAA was expanding its route network with a view to an expected strong increase of tourism as South Africa has been chosen to hold the 2010 FIFA soccer World Cup. "We are bringing the world to Africa and taking Africa to the world," he said. The new routes will enable SAA to capture South-to-South traffic flows associated with growing trade and investment between countries like Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, India and Malaysia. Nomfanelo Magwentshu, SAA General Manager Business Development, said that "SAA's network strategy is to fly to friendly international gateways, taking advantage of our Star Alliance partners hubs... SAA is rapidly enforcing its position as the carrier of choice on the African continent." Being a member of the Star Alliance, SAA offers connections to seven South American countries, including Chile, Uruguay and Peru. The only other airline serving the Argentina-South Africa route is Malaysian Airlines, which is not a member of the Star Alliance. Malaysian has two flights a week between those two destinations. SAA says that Sao Paulo is one its most profitable routes "and is growing in popularity." The new flights to Brazil will originate in Mumbai, India and operate via Johannesburg to capture the growing trade between these countries generated by the IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa) forum. Brazil and Argentina are respectively the first and second largest trading partners of South Africa in Latin America. SAA plans to launch a new destination to Libreville in Gabon in April 2007 three times a week, in addition to its over 20 other destinations on the African continent. Gabon has established trade ties with Brazil and those flights will complement the additional flights to Brazil in 2007. De Oliveira said that an estimation of the investment for the expansion could be ready by January. Asked whether the state-run SAA was receiving subsidies from the South African government he said: "No. All flights must me profitable." Tickets will sell "at competitive prices." SAA cargo sales manager Alejandro Doldi told MercoPress that the cargo revenue from its expanded South American network should account for about 20 percent of the company's total revenue, in line with international standards. Brazil and Argentina are exporting to Africa car engines and spare-parts and agro-industrial products such a edible oils and veterinarian products "which have enough added value so has to 'bear' the cost of air freights." Johannesburg is being used as a hub to send Argentine exports to countries such as Nigeria, Angola, Uganda and Mozambique, he said. Imports into Brazil and Argentina include machinery for the mining sector and, also via South Africa, products from Australia, Middle East and the Far East. For instance, India is sending to South America medicinal and textile products. Sea freight offer in gradually increasing but most industries choose the air freight out of the just-in-time concept, Doldi said. Worldwide expansion SAA's expansion in South America comes amid wider plans to also expand its route network in Europe, North America and Africa, something that the company expects will lead to an eight percent increase in its international capacity. SAA will launch a third destination into North America. After terminating services to Atlanta in June 2006, it will begin four flights per week between Johannesburg and Chicago from May 2007. Chicago is the largest hub of SAA's Star Alliance partner United Airlines and will offer seamless connections to 91 destinations in North America on SAA's Star partners. SAA flights from New York to Johannesburg will operate non-stop from May 2007, saving at least six hours for passengers currently flying via Europe. The company said that this decision has been taken as a result of the "overwhelming success" of its Washington to Johannesburg non-stop flights started in October 2006. SAA currently flies between Johannesburg and JFK in New York via Dakar in Senegal and daily between Johannesburg and Washington. SAA in July 2007 will launch a fifth European destination, Munich, offering seamless connections to 63 destinations in Europe, including 17 destinations in Italy. Munich, a major hub of SAA's Star Alliance partner Lufthansa, will be launched in July 2007, with three flights per week. SAA is also exploring new flights to some of Africa's greatest tourist draw cards, such as Kilimanjaro. SAA carries more than 6.5 million passengers each year and serves 34 cities in 26 countries on six continents. The company's leadership is 77 percent black with a 56:44 male to female ratio. Guillermo Haskel ÃÂ¢€" MercoPress ÃÂ¢€" Buenos Aires