South African Airways (SAA) is set to resume international flights outside of Africa for the first time since 2020, following approval to lease six new aircraft.

The state-owned carrier said that plans to lease five narrow-bodied A320 aircraft and one wide-bodied A330 had been approved by the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Public Enterprises.

Interim CEO Professor John Lamola said that all six aircraft would be delivered by the end of the calendar year, adding that the carrier was excited “to lay the groundwork for the relaunch of our first international route since coming out of business rescue and since the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

“We will announce the new route in the coming few weeks, and we will open commercial marketing and sales for it,” added Lamola.

Aside from the new international route, SAA said that the fleet expansion would enable it to increase seat capacity for its regional and domestic destinations.

South African Airways grounded most services in March 2020 following the onset of Covid-19, but had continued to operate some cargo and repatriation flights until September of that year, when a lack of funds forced it to cease all flights.

The airline subsequently underwent a business rescue process, and emerged a year later, initially with a single route between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

South African Airways resumes flights after one-year hiatus

SAA currently operates around 15 routes from its hub at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International airport.