South African Airways (SAA) is strengthening its hold on West Africa market with the announcement of its inaugural flight between Accra, Ghana and Washington DC in North America. The announcement was made at the Labadi Beach Hotel in Accra, Ghana, on Friday, 31 July at a function well attended by guests.
In a statement, Kendy Phohleli, SAA Executive Africa Hub Projects said the new route substantially strengthens SAA’s presence in West Africa. According to the statement, the first flight departed from the Kotoka International Airport in Accra at 22:45, Sunday, 2 August, following a celebratory send-off, to the Washington Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C. On board were the Ghanaian minister of transportation, Dzifa Aku Attivo, as well as a contingent of high profile Ghanaian government officials; other guests, executives and media.
Senior Captain Themba McLean, SAA’s first black Chief Standards Pilot was the captain. He was assisted by Senior First Officer Mvikeli Nongxa and Senior First Officer Yvette Findlay-Walsh. On arrival the inaugural flight was welcomed by a celebratory water spray as it taxied into the Washington D.C. Dulles International Airport.
Besides announcing the new Accra – Washington route, SAA announced it has concluded a Commercial Cooperation Agreement with Africa World Airlines (AWA), the Ghanaian domestic carrier which will offer customers further connections into West Africa. Adding flights between Accra and Washington to its route network is a significant achievement for the airline and a bold move which strengthens SAA’s position in West Africa. With Accra – Washington added to its extensive African route network serving 24 countries on the continent, SAA now offers customers the option of a second West African country linking air travel to North America.
“Introducing more travel options on the African continent is a major development and achievement for the airline as part of our Long-Term Turnaround Strategy, which sets growth on the African continent as one of our key objectives.
“Besides celebrating the inaugural flight between Accra and Washington, SAA has also concluded a Commercial Cooperation Agreement with Africa World Airlines (AWA) which is off a long-term strategic nature, offering customers more travel options within the West African region.
“SAA’s decision to route some of its North American bound flights to Ghana, is based on sound business principles as there is considerable demand for passengers wanting to fly between Ghana to the U.S.A. We anticipate that this route will add considerable opportunities for the growth of tourism and trade relations between Ghana and the United States of America,” says Phohleli, SAA Executive Africa Hub Projects.
“True to our promise of improving connectivity on the continent, the agreement with Africa World Airlines will offer SAA customers from Washington and Johannesburg seamless connectivity via Accra to other destinations in Ghana such as Kumasi, Takoradi, and Tamale as well as to Lagos, Nigeria. Forming a local partnership with a domestic airline was part of our plans of strengthening SAA’s presence in West Africa,” explained Phohleli.
“South African Airways is recognised as a strong regional player by one of the biggest alliance leaders in the global aviation industry, Star Alliance, and we are glad to become their partner in Ghana and offer our passengers access to destinations worldwide through the network of South African Airways,” said Michael Cheng Luo, AWA chief executive officer.
“The codeshare agreement provides AWA with tremendous opportunities to grow our prowess with routes on the West African network as well as aiming to become the much needed feeder and de-feeder link that taps into a very significant US market for all customer types.
“Africa World Airlines has made significant progress in recent years. From a small domestic airline, it has become an important regional player. I can only support the view of our SAA colleagues that the time has come for AWA to start linking up with a major airline player. We are pleased and proud to partner with them as the preferred choice of a Ghanaian carrier,” Apiigy Afenu, chief operations officer explained.
Connectivity from Washington to other North American destinations was also an important consideration. SAA offers convenient connections to and from over 50 markets in the U.S. and Canada through its airline partners United Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Virgin America. SAA has been flying to Washington for ten years.
Furthermore, the airline’s Frequent Flyer Programme, SAA Voyager in partnership with Ecobank in Ghana, announced the launch of the first ever co-branded Gold and Platinum SAA Voyager Credit Cards within Ghana with the intent to further expand their partnership within the African Continent.
“This customer value proposition reflects our confidence in the African Continent and our resolve to become Africa’s Leading World-Class Loyalty Programme,” Suretha Cruse, SAA executive for customer loyalty said at the event launch.
“The SAA Voyager (Gold and Platinum) Credit Cards will be the catalysts for African growth; strengthening the landscapes for two iconic African leaders within our respective industries here in Ghana and across the Continent,” she added.
“This is perfectly timed with the launch of the SAA’s maiden flight to Washington Dulles. It is expected that travellers to the United States from Ghana will opt for the SAA flights and use the SAA Voyager Credit Card to purchase their tickets as well as make general purchases. This card grants the cardholder access to various benefits,” said Patrick Akinwuntan, Ecobank group executive director, Domestic Bank.
“The SAA Voyager Credit Card offers reward points (by way of earned miles) to both corporate and individual customers, based on card spend. So, for amounts spent, one can expect to earn miles, which can easily be redeemed at a number of partner brands, in various categories such as business, entertainment, shopping and travel.”