Turkish leisure carrier SunExpress has signed a memorandum of understanding to double the number of aircraft it damp-leases to South African Airways for the winter 2024-2025 season.

Two SunExpress Boeing 737-800s are operating for SAA for six months during the current winter season, the Turkish Airlines-Lufthansa joint venture says, with four earmarked under the MoU for the subsequent winter period. 

The arrangement includes maintenance and cockpit crew, SunExpress states, and would represent an “add-on” to the current deal.

Boeing 737-800

Source: SunExpress

One of the two SunExpress Boeing 737-800s that are currently operating for SAA

“Over the next decade, we will more than double our fleet, reaching a 150-aircraft fleet by 2033,” says SunExpress chief executive Max Kownatzki. “These kinds of partnerships enable us to efficiently utilise our fleet, mitigating the impact of our seasonality.”

Indeed, on SAA, Kownatzki told FlightGlobal at the recent Dubai air show: “The counter-cyclicality between their summer and our winter is fantastic.”

SunExpress placed a firm order for 45 737 Max jets in Dubai, as part of its expansion effort. For its part, SAA resumed flights in September 2021 following a formal business restructuring process and has a fleet that only just tips into double figures.

“The additional aircraft will support our operations to meet the growing customer demand during peak seasons and mitigate our management of the global aircraft availability crisis,” says SAA chief executive John Lamola of the expanded arrangement envisaged under the MoU.

SAA is currently using two SunExpress jets to operate 12 domestic flights a day to Cape Town and Durban from Johannesburg.

The two carriers say they are also exploring “options for a multi-year reciprocal capacity support and further co-operation with regards to maintenance, training and commercial support”.