SAA announced on Sunday it will implement direct flights from Johannesburg to Guangzhou, China, in September 2019.

The flight will be the first new international route since it started the implementation of its turnaround programme in 2018. The airline already has direct flights to Hong Kong.

It will be the only carrier operating a direct service between the two cities and with the shortest time estimated at about 14 hours.

“The decision to launch this direct service between Johannesburg and Guangzhou means we remain on track in executing our strategy to transform SAA into a fit-for-the-future airline that will operate both efficiently and competitively,” Vuyani Jarana, CEO of SAA, said.  

The province of Guangdong is the centre of China’s export-led manufacturing industries from which traders source goods needed in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Three new flights to Guangzhou in southern China will be added per week with Airbus A340-300 aircraft operating on those routes.

“We are confident that the introduction of this route is based on sound commercial considerations and will not only benefit SAA but South Africa as a whole as China is the largest source market in Asia. It is also South Africa’s largest trading partner in the world,” Jarana said.

The airline has interline agreements with China Southern Airlines, China Eastern, Air China and Hainan Airlines.  SAA has also negotiated a code share agreement with Hong Kong Airlines, anticipated to be in place this financial year. Hong Kong airlines will codeshare on SAA’s Hong Kong-Johannesburg route and provide feeder traffic from Japan, Korea, Philippines and China, SAA said.

Guangzhou is the third-biggest Chinese city after Beijing and Shanghai and is a prominent transportation hub and trading port situated about 120km northwest of Hong Kong.