South African Airways airlifts three million Nigerians in 20 years - PUNCH
BY Maureen Ihua-Maduenyi
South African Airways says it has airlifted three million Nigerians since the airline began flight operations into Nigeria about 20 years ago.
The airline’s operations commenced on December 4, 1998 when it launched its first flight into Lagos, following a Bilateral Air Service Agreement signed between Nigeria and South Africa.
The Global Chief Executive Officer of the airline, Mr Vuyani Jarana, at a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary in Lagos on Tuesday, said Nigeria remained an important destination for the airline.
He said in appreciation of Nigerians’ patronage, trust and loyalty to the brand, the airline planned to bring in new aircraft as well as improve on its offerings.
Jarana stated that the South African government was also working on making the process of visa issuance easy to encourage more people to travel and boost trade and tourism between both countries.
“We cannot speak on behalf of the government but the Consulate General in Lagos is passionate about easing the process of visa issuance because if addressed, it will increase tourism on both sides. We need to be able to increase frequencies of flights between Lagos and Johannesburg,” he said.
The GCEO added that the airline had struggled in recent times but had put in a lot of strategies to improve on profitability.
“SAA has not lacked strategies, what has been missing is the implementation but the current board is getting things done, we are doing everything to make it work and it will take us three years, between now and 2021 to make the company break even,” he added.
The Regional Manager North, Central and West Africa at South African Airways, Mr Aaron Munetsi, said the airline began with two frequencies in 1998, adding that these had increased to 10 for both countries.
He said the airline had since brought several aircraft onto the Lagos-Johannesburg route, from the initial Airbus 300 series, which had to make a technical stop en-route in Luanda to the Boeing 767 and the B747-400 and to the Airbus A340–600, which was then replaced by the current Airbus A330-300 aircraft.