South African Airways returns to Perth Airport with direct Johannesburg service

South African Airways returns to Perth Airport with direct Johannesburg service

Following a busy period of announcements for new international routes in recent months, this morning Perth Airport revealed a major South African service would return, followed by an announcement this afternoon of Thai Airways' plans to land back on the tarmac in WA. 

Perth Airport is on a roll for new flight announcements with South African Airways (SAA) set to recommence services between the WA capital and Johannesburg from 28 April, offering improved connectivity with one of Africa's largest economies and the birthplace of a sizeable community in the state.

The airport's chief commercial and aviation officer Kate Holsgrove says it is great to see SAA back in Perth after three years following the impacts of the pandemic, in a move that is testament to the airline's resilient efforts and a continued partnership over 60 years.

"The non-stop flight will operate three times per week on the airline's Airbus A340-300 aircraft delivering 78,936 seats to the Perth market," Holsgrove says.

"Once flights resume, we will continue working closely with South African Airways with the aim of rebuilding back to a daily service."

According to the SBS Australian Census Explorer, 1.7 per cent of West Australians - or 44,889 people - were born in South Africa, making it the fifth-leading country of origin for the state's residents behind Australia, England, New Zealand and India.

"This is great news for Perth and Western Australian residents who have family connections in South Africa and for those looking to tick off a travel experience on their bucket list to such a vibrant country and explore the continent," Holsgrove says.

"The return of South African Airways' services between Perth and Johannesburg also provides an alternative itinerary for those travelling to South America with flights also available to Sao Paulo, Brazil from either Johannesburg or Cape Town with South African Airways."

South African Airways' Sao Paulo route was only announced on 31 October.

SAA CEO, Professor John Lamola, says the airline's operations in Perth are in line with the strategic plans to scale operations to a profitable level by leveraging capabilities as a national carrier with wide-body aircraft that can provide South Africa with long-haul intercontinental air connectivity.

"Besides the global interconnectivity potential of this route, Perth has long been a favoured destination for South African and Australian travellers, with approximately 80 per cent of our target market being visiting family and friends," says Lamola.

"The recommencement of the route provides an easier and direct passage for both leisure and business travellers, promoting trade and cultural exchange between South Africa and Australia.

"We are committed to growing SAA into a revered leader in the global aviation sector. Perth is but one indicator of this ambition and gives us confidence that our vision of expanding our footprint to over 20 destinations this year will be realised."

This afternoon the airport also announced the recommencement of a daily, non-stop Thai Airways service between Perth and the Thai capital Bangkok, starting on 31 March 2024.

"The return of this service means tourists, students and businesses have the option of a non-stop connection to Bangkok which will deliver a significant 186,368 seats and 14,000 tonnes of cargo capacity to the Perth market annually," says Holsgrove.

"With Thailand being Australia's eighth-largest trading partner and a significant market for international students, the resumption of non-stop flights provides a massive opportunity for both our economies.

"The announcement of Thai Airways returning to Perth in the new year is a positive sign that growth opportunities for our tourism, export and international student sectors will continue in 2024."

The return of both these routes will come hot on the heels of a new AirAsia Berhad (AK) service between Perth and the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, which will commence in March, bringing improved links with the WA's fifth-biggest international visitor market which injected $88 million worth of visitor expenditure for the year ending in June 2023.

In late 2023 the airport achieved two breakthroughs in its connectivity with Vietnam after a new service from Vietjet from Ho Chi Minh City landed in November, followed by the commencement in December of a new Perth-Ho Chi Minh City service with Vietnam Airlines.

Also late last year, China Eastern Airlines announced a seasonal Shanghai-Perth route over the Chinese New Year celebrations period that will run from 20 January to 18 February 2024.

"Back in 2019, Western Australia catered for 67,000 Chinese visitors who spent $283 million in our economy – including our important tourism and retail businesses," Holsgrove said at the time in her capacity as acting chief executive officer - a role that has since been filled by Jason Waters, a former CEO of the Perth Mint, Synergy and Verve Energy.

However, there are currently no direct flights from Perth to mainland China and visitor numbers from the country have dropped to 19,000 visitors who spent $78 million in visitor expenditure.

Other major announcements for the airport in the second half of 2023 included a return of Tokyo-Perth services from All Nippon Airways (ANA), increased capacity with Singapore Airlines, and a planned non-stop service to Paris in the lead-up to the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic games this July.

Perth Airport reported a profit of $110.4 million in FY23 with passenger numbers of almost 14.2 million, representing an increase of 6.8 million on FY22. The profit was down on the previous year's comparable result when considering property value adjustments, but was an improvement on a near-break-even result in that year and a significant loss in FY21.

"We predicted last year that our financial performance would steadily improve as we moved beyond the border restrictions imposed by COVID and people became more willing to travel,” Holsgrove said in November.

“The FIFO-based regional aviation market continues to perform remarkably strongly and we have worked hard to re-establish international connections.

“In FY23 alone we saw the return of Qatar and Emirates’ A380 aircraft, the first Philippine Airlines’ Manila flight, new services to Jakarta and Denpasar from Indonesia Air Asia and Citilink, and increased capacity on the Singapore Airlines service to Singapore."

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