SAA celebrates 75 years of successful flying

South African Airways, voted “Africa’s Leading Airline” at the 2008 World Travel Awards, is celebrating 75 years of successful flying.
The story begins in 1934, when South African Airways was formed - using classic aircraft such as the Junkers Ju 52 and the DC3 offering to a hesitant public a safe and comfortable means of travel.

Commercial air travel resumed after the 2nd World War and the decade of the ‘50’s saw SAA emerge as a world leader in air travel.  The quality of cabin service, flying times, and reliability became internationally recognized in aircraft such as the pressurized Constellation and the DC7 that have come to epitomize a gracious era of air travel.

In 1945 SAA introduced its first flight services between Europe and South Africa: The legendary Springbok route from Great Britain to Johannesburg. In 1952 Germany is added to SAA’s international route network.

In the 1960’s, shuttle flights and mass transport transformed the industry. SAA was poised to take advantage of the opportunities.

The first commercially viable jetliner, the Boeing 707, was delivered to SAA in 1960. At this time, SAA had liberally changed from blue on aluminium to the famous orange, blue and whitetail fin. By the end of the decade, SAA was carrying a million passengers per year. Regionally, the most advanced feeder aircraft such as the Boeing 727 and the 737 were consolidating SAA’s pre-eminence in Africa, offering the highest levels of service and efficiency.

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This focus on advanced technology continued into the ‘70’s with the introduction of the Boeing 747 series. Over the next three decades from the early classics to the 747-SP and the 747-400, SAA flew this already legendary jetliner to every corner of the globe. In the ‘80’s, the Airbus began service.

In the following decade when in 1994 the world saw the youngest democratic nation reborn, Nelson Mandela’s rainbow nation had an airline to match its vigour and hope, sharing in the milestones of the first challenging years. In 1995, South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup; the country’s cultural diversity and warmth were show-keys to the world. And it was the South African Airways’ 747 that thundered over the Ellis Park Stadium in an unforgettable climax.

During the world summit on sustainable development, SAA carried hundreds of delegates to and from South Africa and showed them the beauty of our land.


The Millennium saw the introduction of the Boeing 737 new generation aircraft for SAA’s domestic and regional operations. SAA also added to its fleet the Boeing 767 twin jets and most recently the Airbus A340-600 and 300e; fitted with SAA’s own premium class flat-bed seats.

In 2003, after 40 years, South Africa was reinstated as a member of the International Civil Aviation Organisation allowing SAA to play its pivotal role in Southern African development.

Over the years, SAA has received a deserved share of international recognition. Amongst these are: “Africa’s Leading Airline” at the 2008 World Travel Awards.
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