Airlink, is an airline based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Its main business is to provide services between smaller, under-served towns and larger hub airports. It has since expanded to offer flights on larger, mainline routes. The airline has an ever-expanding network of over 60 routes across 50+ destinations. In January 2021, it became the second-largest carrier within Africa by number of flights, and third-largest by number of seats.
|Founded||11 June 1992|
|Headquarters||Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa|
|Key people||Rodger Foster (CEO)|
Airlink was formed in 1992 by business partners Rodger Foster and Barrie Webb, following the purchase of the liquidated Link Airways business, which had incorporated a range of other airlines: Midlands Aviation (founded in 1967), Lowveld Aviation Services, Magnum Airways, Border Air and Citi Air. The new airline was named Airlink.
In 1995, SA Airlink officially launched on 25 March at a gathering of important guests, including Queen Elizabeth II. Later that year, the airline aligned its branding with that of South African Airways and joined their Voyager frequent-flyer programme.
In 1997, SA Airlink further strengthened their partnership with South African Airways, and joined both SAA and South African Express in a strategic alliance. This alliance and partnership created the biggest airline network in Africa. The alliance was governed by a franchise agreement, which saw SA Airlink adopt the "South African" brand identity and become South African Airlink.
In 1999, South African Airlink entered into a joint venture with the government of Swaziland (now Eswatini) to create a new airline to replace the defunct Royal Swazi National Airways. The airline was called Swaziland Airlink and was split 60% to the Swaziland government and 40% to South African Airlink.
In 2006, South African Airlink exited the strategic alliance with South African Airways and entered into a franchise agreement, dropping the "South African" branding from their name, but retaining a similar colour scheme. SA Airlink introduced their unique Sunbird logo as part of the new branding.
On 23 December 2009, the SA Civil Aviation Authority grounded their fleet of 13 BAe Jetstream 41 planes. Following audits of the airline's procedures and inspection of the grounded aircraft, they were returned to service. A problem with a seal in the aircraft's Honeywell engines was found to be the cause of safety issues.
In 2016, SA Airlink signed an agreement with the government of Madagascar to operate scheduled domestic air services within it, and regional air services to and from the island. The airline also established a training centre in partnership with Embraer at their headquarters in Bonaero Park, Johannesburg.
On 3 May 2017, Airlink became the first airline in history to make a commercial charter flight to Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean, landing a BAe Avro RJ-85 at the newly constructed Saint Helena Airport to pick up passengers stranded there when the island's only link with the outside world, the British Royal Mail Ship RMS St Helena, suffered propeller damage.
No other commercial airliner landed at St Helena until 14 October 2017, when Airlink began history's first scheduled commercial airline service to Saint Helena Airport, with an Embraer E190 with 78 passengers aboard arriving after a flight of about six hours from Johannesburg, with a stop at Walvis Bay, Namibia. The flight began a once-a-week scheduled service between Johannesburg and Saint Helena.
In 2018, SA Airlink and FlySafair concluded negotiations for a merger. The application was turned down by the South African Competition Commission on the basis that it believed that regional airline SA Airlink and low-cost carrier FlySafair were competitors. The matter was referred to the Tribunal, but the application was withdrawn as the shareholders' objectives of both companies had changed.
In 2020, SA Airlink changed its name from SA Airlink to Airlink. The change was made to distinguish the company as an independent airline. Airlink ended its 23-year old franchise agreement with South African Airways in the early part of 2020. It has been operating and issuing tickets under its own 4Z ticket stock instead of South African Airways' SA code since then, and signed its own Interline agreements with six other carriers.
On 12 November 2020, Airlink unveiled a new livery, dropping any similarities to the South African Airways brand and incorporating the Sunbird logo set against sunrise colours as the main focal point of the new tail insignia. The first aircraft to sport the design were scheduled to fly during the December holiday season in 2020.
In January 2021, Airlink became the third largest carrier within Africa by number of seats offered, and second largest by number of flights scheduled. This is mainly due to Airlink's use of lower capacity aircraft and the opening up of new markets due to the decline of South African Airways.
Airlink is privately owned, but has published the names of its shareholders:
- Sishen Iron Ore Company Community Development Trust (32.51%)
- Coronation Capital
- SA Airlink Investments (Rodger Foster)
- Barrie Webb
- South African Airways (2.96%)
Sishen Iron Ore Company Community Development Trust, via its subsidiary Sishen Iron Ore Company Community Development Trust Investment Holdings, acquired a 32.51% stake in the company in June 2012. The original founders of Airlink, Rodger Foster and Barrie Webb, remain shareholders.
As of January 2021[update], Airlink serves 63 routes across the following destinations:
Since ending its partnership with SAA in 2020, Airlink interlines with the following airlines:
|BAe Jetstream 41||6||—||—||29||29||To be phased out|||
|Cessna 208B||4||—||—||12||12||Used for Lodge Link services|
Airlink has previously operated the following aircraft:
|BAe Avro RJ-85||12||2008||2019|
|Boeing 737-200||1||2006||2007||Leased from Safair|
|Embraer ERJ-145||2||2012||2018||ZS-DFA leased from NAC|
|Fokker F28-4000||3||2003||2005||Leased from AirQuarius|
|Swearingen Merlin II||3||1992||1997|
Incidents and accidentsEdit
- On 24 September 2009, Airlink Flight 8911, a BAe Jetstream 41 ZS-NRM on a positioning flight from Durban International Airport to Pietermaritzburg Airport crashed into the grounds of Merebank Secondary School, Durban shortly after takeoff. The crew declared an emergency, reporting loss of engine power and smoke coming from the rear of the aircraft. The pilots ditched the aircraft on the sports field of the school, avoiding hitting nearby residential areas. The school was closed due to it being a public holiday. All three crew members and one person on the ground were injured. The captain, Allister Freeman, later died as a result of complications from his injuries on 7 October 2009.
- On 7 December 2009, Airlink Flight 8625, an Embraer ERJ-135 ZS-SJW overran the runway on landing in wet weather at George Airport. No fatalities were reported. The flight was cleared for an Instrument landing (ILS) approach and prevailing weather conditions at the time were overcast with light rain. The landing appeared normal, however the aircraft did not vacate the runway but instead veered to the right and collided with approach lights before it burst through the airport's perimeter fence, coming to rest in a nose-down attitude on a public road. The aircraft was damaged beyond repair. The crew were unable to stop the aircraft due to ineffective braking of the aircraft on the wet runway surface. Two months before the accident the runway was treated with a fog sealant. The day of the accident was the first rain experienced since the runway treatment. The new surface caused a degradation of the surface friction and promoted the formation of pooling. After touch down, the aircraft immediately started aquaplaning and the crew veered to the right to prevent a collision with the localiser antenna. The runway was found non-compliant with ICAO annexe 14 and was subsequently resurfaced. Airlink's insurers took legal action against the state-owned Airports Company of South Africa.
- On 8 November 2017, Airlink Flight 8103 - a BAe Avro RJ-85 ZS-ASW - suffered an uncontained engine failure of its No. 2 Honeywell LF 507 engine due to the LP retaining nut becoming dislodged, which caused the 4th stage LP turbine disk to disengage from the LP turbine shaft. The resulting failure caused the turbine's blades to all detach from the disk and damage the No. 1 engine's nacelle. This caused the engine to undergo an un-commanded engine shutdown. The aircraft landed safely and no one was injured.
- "CONTRACTIONS FAAO JO 7340.2". Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- "Linking you..."
- says, Gaurav Agarwal (15 January 2021). "Airlink, newly independent, is now Africa's second-largest airline". anna.aero. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
- "Timeline". Airlink. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
- "Airlink history from Africa, South Africa". Airline History. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
- "Timeline" (PDF).
- "S. Africa Grounds 14 Airlink Planes on Safety Fears (Update1)". Bloomberg. 24 December 2009.
- "Airlink to commence Cape Town – Windhoek flights 6 October 2014". Archived from the original on 14 April 2010. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- "DefenceWeb.co.za – Airlink Jetstream fleet all fit to fly". Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- Anonymous, "First commercial flight lands on remote St Helena," bbc.com, October 14, 2017.
- "How Recently Rebranded Airlink Became Africa's Second Biggest Airline". Simple Flying. 16 January 2021. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
- Brothwell, Ryan. "SA Airlink changes its name". Retrieved 29 October 2020.
- "Airlink Breaks Away From South African Airways With New Name And Livery". Simple Flying. 12 November 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
- "Shareholders". Airlink. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
- "Company Announcement: Barrow's Latest Greenstone Hill Office Building Leased" (Press release). Engineeringnews.co.za. 13 August 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
- "SA Airlink to maintain operations, launch Luanda service after SAA route cuts | CAPA". centreforaviation.com. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
- Campbell, Rebecca. "Airlink to restart operations to Botswana". www.engineeringnews.co.za. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
- "Airlink reconnects South Africa and Botswana – Travel To South Africa". Retrieved 6 May 2021.
- Campbell, Rebecca. "Airlink announces route to DRC mining centre". www.engineeringnews.co.za. Retrieved 14 May 2021.
- "Airlink begins SAA uncoupling; Eswatini unit pursues own AOC". ch-aviation. Retrieved 14 May 2021.
- "Airlink to resume flights between SA and Lesotho". www.iol.co.za. Retrieved 14 May 2021.
- "SA Airlink Adds Nosy-Be Service from late-March 2016". Routesonline. 5 February 2016. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
- Styan, James-Brent (28 January 2013). "SA Airlink extends bush beach offering". Fin24. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
- "Airlink News | Flyairlink".
- "Airlink-Ascension Island Government". Ascension Island Government. 5 October 2017. Archived from the original on 14 October 2017. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
- Jim Liu (24 September 2017). "SA Airlink opens St. Helena reservation for Oct 2017 launch". Routesonline. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
- "SA Airlink Adds Johannesburg – Sishen Service from late-Sep 2014". Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- "Skukuza Flight Schedule is Now Available for Bookings". Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- "Airlink to add Entebbe to its network from July". Retrieved 9 June 2021.
- "South African regional Airlink charts independence from SAA". Routesonline. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
- "Emirates partners with Airlink to expand network in Southern Africa". Aviation Business News. 21 October 2020. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
- "Kenya Airways signs interline agreement with Airlink". News24. 7 May 2021. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
- Campbell, Rebecca. "Airlink now in interline agreement with Lufthansa and SWISS". www.engineeringnews.co.za. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
- "Qatar Airways signs interline agreement with Airlink". Getaway Magazine. 15 October 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
- "Global Airline Guide 2017 (Part Two)". Airliner World (November 2017): 32.
- "Airlink Fleet Details and History".
- "Airlink Fleet Details and History". Retrieved 20 June 2021.
- Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident British Aerospace 4121 Jetstream 41 ZS-NRM Durban International Airport (DUR)". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 16 February 2021.
- "Crash plane declared emergency". Independent Online. 24 September 2009. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
- "Plane crash-lands in George". News24. Archived from the original on 13 December 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2009.
- Hradecky, Simon (7 December 2009). "Accident: SA Airlink E135 at George on Dec 7th 2009, overran runway". The Aviation Herald. Retrieved 7 December 2009.
- "Airlink plane overshoots George runway". Mail & Guardian. 7 December 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2009.
- "Crash of an Embraer 135 in George | B3A Aircraft Accidents Archives". Baaa-acro.com. 7 December 2009. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
- "Business Day Airlink in clear, ACSA blamed for George near-disaster". Business Day Live. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
- "RJ85 ZS-ASW" (PDF). South African Civil Aviation Authority. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
Media related to South African Airlink at Wikimedia Commons