Once the regional ‘arm’ of South African Airways (SAA) under the name of SA Airlink, early in 2020, the carrier ended its 23-year-long partnership with the country’s flag carrier, establishing itself as an independent airline and changing its name to Airlink.
The financial difficulties of SAA—which led to the stopping of its operations in May 2020—allowed Airlink to expand its network very quickly and become South Africa’s largest airline.
In November 2020, Airlink unveiled a new livery, dropping similarities to the SAA brand and incorporating the Sunbird logo set against sunrise colors as the main focal point of the new tail insignia.
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As of today, the airline has bases in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban and boasts a wide-reaching network of 17 cities in South Africa and 25 more in 12 countries, including Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar.
Airlink is also the only airline serving the remote island of St. Helena in the southern Atlantic, famous for hosting French emperor Napoleon during his exile back in the 19th Century.
The airline’s fleet consists of turboprop and jet aircraft, with Embraer regional jets flying the furthest and most traveled routes. In addition, Airlink operates some BAe Jetstream 41s on shorter hops or to serve thinner markets.
The agreement (which fills the ‘void’ left by the dismissal in June 2022 of Comair, BA’s South African subsidiary) means British Airways’ customers traveling from or transiting through London (Heathrow and Gatwick) will be able to connect to their final destination via Cape Town or Johannesburg on a single ticket.
“Our flights to Cape Town and Johannesburg continue to be as popular as ever with our customers, so we’re pleased to be able to open up more options in the Southern African region,” said Neil Chernoff, BA’s Director of Network and Alliances. “Our partnership with Airlink means that customers will be able to book a full journey on one ticket, allowing seamless travel all the way from London to their final destination.”
British Airways flies twice daily from its main hub at London Heathrow to Johannesburg with its flagship aircraft, the Airbus A380. Also, twice-daily flights from London Heathrow to Cape Town run with a mix of Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 aircraft. Lastly, three times per week, flights from London Gatwick to Cape Town are also available with one of the airline’s 777 planes.
Members of British Airways’ loyalty program, the Executive Club, can earn Avios when flying on Airlink flights on codeshare journeys with Airlink.
“This is an important next step in our partnership with British Airways, which has a phenomenal global reach into the most important markets for our region,” added Airlink’s CEO, Rodger Foster. “The marriage of our two networks will benefit both British Airways’ and Airlink’s customers, giving them even more choice with a wide range of itinerary options and connectivity possibilities.”
In total, 18 destinations are available as codeshare options when traveling from Heathrow via Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Examples include London Heathrow to Durban via Johannesburg and London Heathrow to Port Elizabeth, South Africa, via Cape Town or Johannesburg.
Codeshare tickets are available to book on British Airways and Airlink websites and apps for travel from February 15, 2023, onwards.