SAA to accelerate expansion, eyes China link

Addis Ababa
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South African Airways (SAA) CEO Siza Mzimela is hoping to accelerate her airline's expansion strategy, with new links to China, Latin America and within Africa.

Mzimela became SAA's new CEO in March, replacing Chris Smyth, who had served as acting CEO since March 2009.

Speaking to ATI at the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) annual general assembly in Addis Ababa, Mzimela said: "Our old strategy is still intact, including our ambitious expansion into Africa." But she adds: "I personally don't think we have moved fast enough."

Now that the foundations have been laid internally, she says SAA will step up a gear in its development, adding new routes and extra frequencies to existing destinations.

"All of our African network is profitable, so we want to increase that. We have fallen behind in looking at new destinations in Africa, so there will be announcements over the next few months," she says. This will extend to two to three new destinations.

Mzimela is also keen to add longer-range destinations to her network. "In terms of destinations beyond the continent, I want to get to China in the shortest time possible," she says. "If all the planning falls into place, we will probably be in a position to make various announcements early next year."

This announcement is likely to include one destination in China, although overall multiple new routes are on the cards. "We are probably looking in excess of two or three, but we will be managing this quite carefully," says Mzimela, who says: "South America quite important to us as well."

SAA will take delivery of the first of a pair of leased Airbus A330s next year. It also recently placed an order for 20 A320s, which will arrive from 2013-15.