South African Airways has resumed operations for the first time since September 2020.

The flag carrier grounded most services in March last year following the onset of Covid-19, but had continued to operate some cargo and repatriation flights until around a year ago, when a lack of funds forced it to cease all flights.

The airline has since undergone a business rescue process, with the South African government planning to sell a majority stake in SAA to a local consortium – although this deal still has to complete due diligence.

On Thursday South African Airways resumed flights from Johannesburg to Cape Town, with a three-times-daily service between the two cities.

The carrier also plans to restart flights to the African capitals of Accra, Kinshasa, Harare, Lusaka, and Maputo.

“This week is a proud and significant one for SAA and its staff as well as all South African citizens,” said SAA’s Interim CEO Thomas Kgokolo.

“Our journey back to the skies has not been easy and I pay tribute to our dedicated workforce in all areas of the business all of whom have and are putting in long hours ahead of this day.

“People in every facet of the business want nothing more than for SAA to succeed and for us to build a new airline based on safety and exemplary customer service.”

“We restart this business with a new vision of pride in the brand and one that has been inculcated into every staff member.

“Our first order of business is to service our start-up routes efficiently and profitably and then look to expanding the network and growing our fleet, all depending on demand and market conditions.”

Meanwhile SAA’s board chairman John Lamola said that the carrier’s return “will provide more market equilibrium in terms of ticket pricing”.

“Since the carrier went into and then out of business rescue there has been less local capacity and that means tickets have become more expensive, said Lamola.

“Our return to the skies will mean more competitive pricing and will enable more South Africans to fly.

“Economics aside, there is also the pride factor. Seeing SAA’s tail colours on international tarmacs is not only positive for South Africa but the rest of the continent.”

Fellow South African carrier Comair also resumed services earlier this month, having itself filed for business rescue last year.

Meanwhile in recent months Emirates has moved to strengthen its African network, signing several interline and codeshare deals with South African carriers Cemair and Airlink.

Emirates signs interline agreement with Cemair