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South African Airways

South African Airways (SAA) is South Africa's largest domestic and international airline company. With hubs in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South African is currently one of the few profitable African airlines.

South African had very humble beginnings. In 1934, an airline named Union Airways[?] was bought over by South Africa's government, and renamed South African Airways. The first cities served were Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

The 1930s wasn't a decade of much growth for the airline, but South African was able to enter the international market with flights to Kenya and Uganda.

The slow growth continued during the 1940s, but South African achieved a longtime company goal by landing a route to Europe for the first time in 1945. And on a historic November day, an Avro York Bomber[?] landed in Bournemouth, England, after the long flight from Palmietfontein[?].

The 1950s didn't see a lot of action for South African Airways, but, just like it happened with everything else around the world, that all started to change for SAA. The Boeing 707 had arrived to the airline's fleet, and with it, the jet age. South African's first plane of this type first landed in England and the rest of Europe on October of 1960. 2 years later, South African's jets would allow the airline to fly non stop for the first time ever from South Africa into the U.K. and South African's other European destinations.

The next few years would be marked by more slow but steady growth, and the effect of the Apartheid political regimen on the airline. The only major development the airline had during the 1970s was the opening of a route to Asia, with Boeing 747 flights to Hong Kong being initiated.

Because of the Apartheid regime, many countries refused to trade economically with South Africa, and this affected the airline: While many airlines were growing fast on the international market, South African's growth rate was far behind most. But South African fought the adversity determined to survive, and in 1980 they opened a route to Taipei, which complemented its Hong Kong service.

In 1982, Houston, Texas became a South African Airways City, with a South African Airways 747 flying the inaugural flight on December 9th of that year.

South African carried 3.9 million passengers in 1983 and took delivery of it's first 747-300, only the 3rd airline worldwide to operate that type of plane.

1984 was a year of celebration as South African celebrated its 50th anniversary. This was the year that a group of South African Airways fans started talking about the possibility of opening a museum dedicated to the airline. In this year the South African government made a controversial decision where it signed a treaty with Somalia to give extensive military aid to the repressive regime of Siad Barre in exchange for an exclusive contract to service Somali air travel. This turned out to be not a very good deal from an economic stand point since few Somalis could afford airline tickets, and due to the incessant civil disorder in the country, few people wanted to go to Somalia either.

1985 saw the cutting of SAA's South American services because of the lack of passenger interest on those services. Services to Buenos Aires were stopped, but services to Rio De Janeiro were kept. The service to Buenos Aires would later be restarted.

In 1987, tragedy struck the airline: A 747 flying from Hong Kong to Johannesburg blew up over the Indian Ocean, killing all it's passengers and crew.

During that year too, the South African Airways Museum, with different artifacts and even an old airplane donated by the airline, opened its doors to the public at Jan Smuts International Airport.

During the 1990s, after Apartheid fell, South African dedicated its efforts to re-opening routes to countries that had stopped trading with South Africa as a consequence of Apartheid, and establishing flights to other countries it had never flown to and that also didn't trade with South Africa during Apartheid.

June 1 of 1990 was also an important day for SAA, as South African companies signed a domestic air travel deregulation act. Later this year, SAA was chosen as the Best Airline to Africa by London magazine Executive Travel[?]

1991 saw the arrival of South African's first A320 jet, and its first 747-400 jet, nicknamed the Durban. South African re-entered the New York market, flying to JFK International Airport for the first time since the United States imposed economic sanctions on South Africa in 1986, and South African's planes were able to fly for the first time over Egypt and Sudan

1992 saw South African enter the Miami market (from Cape Town) and re-enter Australia. This year also saw code sharing agreements with American Airlines and Air Tanzania[?].

1993 was the year Manchester and Hamburg entered the route system, and a code sharing agreement was reached with Brazil's Varig.

In 1994, South African became a 25 percent owner of a company named Sax, and a feeder service (SAA Express[?]) began flying domestically. This year saw the birth of the airline Alliance, which was a partnership between SAA, Uganda Airways[?] and Air Tanzania[?]. Also South African greeted its passengers in four different languages during domestic flights: English, Zulu, Afrikaans and Sotho[?], while passengers on international flights were also greeted in the destination's local language too.

In 1995, Lufthansa started a code sharing agreement with SAA, and SAA commanded Herdbuois Diefenbach Elkins[?] to lead South African's change of image. This year, South African's Vogager and American's AAdvantage frequent flier clubs joined together.

1996 saw the services to Singapore discontinue and Bangkok become an Asian hub for the airline. This year, South African Olympic athletes were carried to Atlanta aboard 747 Ndizani and South African won Executive Travel's best airline to Africa award for the 3rd. time.

In 1997 the airline started selling tickets online and introduced its new image and livery. In addition to that, SAA, SAA Airlink[?] and SAA Express formed a new alliance.

1998 saw services to Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo restored, services to Copenhagen stopped, and a new airline President in the figure of Coleman Andrews[?].

1999 was the Year South African and Delta Airlines started code sharing on flights from Atlanta to South Africa. Those flights took place on South African Airways planes.

2000 saw South African arrive at Ft. Lauderdale[?] and order 21 more Boeing 737s for its domestic routes.

In 2001, South African won the Best Cargo Airline to Africa award from Air Cargo News[?] - even though South African is mostly a passenger airline) - and South African Airways signed a code sharing agreement with Nigeria Airways[?], to provide service from the United States to Lagos, using South African 747s. The airline earned a spot on the Zagat Surveys top ten international airlines list, opened a new website and named Andr Viljoen[?] as Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

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