Smoke On Go

South African known and almost forgotten airlines

South Africa has had its fair share of airlines that have come and gone. In fact the figure is close to 50 at last count. So here are a few to jog your memory and in no particular order:

Nationwide (1995-2008)

Nationwide operated National and International flights.

In March 2008 the airline was awarded as the most punctual scheduled airline in 2007 between London and Johannesburg for the second consecutive year according to UK CAA statistics.

November 7th 2007 – a Nationwide Airlines Boeing 737-200 registration ZS-OEZ operating flight 723 lost its right engine a few seconds after liftoff from Cape Town International Airport. Captain Trevor Arnold and First Officer Daniel Perry (PF) were in command of this flight. The aircraft landed safely.

FliteStar (1991-1994)

Flitestar was the first South African airline to directly challenge the monopoly of South African Airways (SAA). It was a subsidiary of Trek Airways.

Flitestar concentrated on serving the business market without neglecting other passengers, which gained it up to 25% of the domestic market with load factors of 63% or more.

Trek Airways (1953-1994)

Trek Airways was formed in 1953 and was the only South African airline at the time apart from SAA to fly international services. Flights were operated from Europe to South Africa with one over-night stop.

1Time (2004-2012)

In 2006 1time carried over a million passengers on services to eight destinations.

The airline was owned by Afrisource Holdings (50%), MKJH Trust (30%) and Mogwele Investments (20%) and had 420 employees (at March 2007).

SA EXPRESS (1994-2020)

SA Express was a state-owned airline. Although the airline was operationally independent of South African Airways, its flights were incorporated within the strategic alliance with South African Airways. On 18 March 2020, the airline suspended all operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

BOP Air (Sun Air) (1978-1999)

Sun Air was originally owned by the Bantusan of Bophuthatswana, and was later privatised. The airline was revived in 2002 as a business-focused airline operating between Lanseria Airport and Cape Town. The airline was rebranded as Sun Air following the end of apartheid in 1994. The airline was previously called Mafikeng Air Service between 1978 and 1979, and Mmabatho Air Service till 1986.

Interlink Airlines (1997-2010)

Interlink Airlines suffered long-lasting financial troubles before liquidation. At its height, Interlink operated a fleet of four B737-200 aircraft and the airline was in possession of two smaller Embraer EMB120 Brasilia aircraft.

Velvet Sky (2011-2012)

Velvet Sky Aviation was the only airline based in Durban and claimed to be the first Broad-Bases Black Economic Empowerment compliant airline in South Africa.

Customers complained about poor service relating to problems with the airline’s website and telephone service.

ROVOS Air (2001-2014)

Rovos Air was established in 2002 by Rohan Vos, the owner of Rovos Rail, the operator of the prestigious Pride of Africa. The company operated tourist traffic between Pretoria and Victoria Falls offering passengers a nostalgic flight in classic aircraft that were fully refurbished and fitted with luxury seats to match the saloon wagon in their train.

In 2009, Rovos Air was sold to TIM Holdings (PTY) LTD, trading as Gryphon Airlines.

On 10 July 2018, a Convair 340 owned by Dutch aviation museum Aviodrome crashed during a trial flight in Pretoria, South Africa. The aircraft suffered an engine fire moments after takeoff and crashed into a factory building as the crew attempted to return it to Wonderboom Airport.