The first flight of South African Airways (SAA) to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates departed on Sunday, said SAA.
“SAA’s first flight, SA 278, to Abu Dhabi departed this morning [Sunday] at 09:30 and arrives at 20:25 local time in Abu Dhabi. The daily service sees frequencies between Johannesburg and Abu Dhabi double with partner Etihad Airways continuing its seven weekly departures,” said SAA on Sunday.
The new network addition will also see SAA’s intercontinental reach expand significantly through the carrier’s onward codeshare partnership with Etihad Airways.
“Since first signing our codeshare agreement in 2013, the important partnership between SAA and Etihad Airways has grown positively. Our deepening relationship not only sees both airlines enjoy network expansion through code-sharing, but together we are exploring means to share knowledge and best practice across a wide variety of aviation related and commercial matters,” said Acting SAA chief executive officer Nico Bezuidenhout.
The airline said that business and leisure travellers will benefit from the convenience of multiple flight options between Johannesburg and Abu Dhabi within the same day.
More than 1 000 connections will also be offered each week over Etihad Airways’ Abu Dhabi hub to key markets including the Middle East, Indian subcontinent, and North and South East Asia including China.
The airlines have also significantly expanded their codeshare agreement to include a total of 51 routes, more than double the previous number.
Etihad Airways will also place its ‘EY’ code on South African Airways’ new Johannesburg-Abu Dhabi flights, in addition to 17 of SAA’s other services from Johannesburg to key destinations across the African continent.
In return, South African Airways will place its ‘SA’ code on 35 Etihad Airways routes beyond Abu Dhabi to a range of destinations worldwide.
“Aviation plays an important role not only in the movement of people and goods but,as an economic growth and development catalyst, and the new service will support this,” said Bezuidenhout.
It is estimated that there are currently more than 200 South African companies doing business in the UAE and trade between the countries passed the R20 billion mark in 2013. South African exports to the UAE rose from R5.2 billion in 2009 to more than R11 billion in 2013 and it continues to grow.