Logos of different South African airlines

Logos of different South African airlines. Image made by Kyle Hwang.

GUEST BLOG (By Kyle Hwang,  intro by David): From time to time I will have guest bloggers talk about something they specialize in. Recently I was connected with Kyle who is an 18 year old student living in Pretoria, South Africa and attending University of Pretoria studying BSc Actuarial and Financial Mathematics.

He enjoys plane spotting, even though the closest major airport is OR Tambo, which is a 45 minute drive. When he has free time, he loves designing airline liveries and has quite the collection.  Here are his thoughts on airlines in South Africa, in his own words:

So you might think that South Africa is a rainbow nation and not ready to host a World Cup. But either way, it has a rather rich and diverse aviation world. Here’s a quick look at the airlines


South African Airways  is the national flag carrier of South Africa. SAA is one of six airlines in the world to fly to all continents of the world. Clearly the dominant airline at OR Tambo International Airport, their fortress. SAA has a 4 star Skytrax rating and is also a member of Star Alliance.

Besides the multi coloured Ndizani livery that bought the national Olympic team to Atlanta in 1996, the airline has not had a single special livery except the Star Alliance planes. Oddly enough, SAA is also not the official airline of the FIFA World Cup.

SAA is however pretty infamous on their home turf. Rivals Kulula.com have made SAA pay several anti-competitive fines. SAA was also blamed for the shut down of Nationwide Airlines.

SAA CEO’s have also not had one of the best rides. Andre Viljoen is generally a nuisance in the public’s eye, receiving many letters to retire. Viljoen was however the pioneer of SAA’s Airbus fleet refurbishment program. Khaya Ngqula, Viljoen’s predecessor had to retire because of mismanagement (fraud in my opinion!). He has also been the one taking credit for Viljoen’s Airbus program which proved to be quite successful.

Current CEO Siza Mzimela seems to bring the airline some hope. Former CEO of South African Express (SAA’s strategic partner) may restore the airline to their former glory (SAA won the best Business class seat award in 2004 and 2nd best Business class in 2005).


Having revamped their logo recently, SAX is having a much better independent-from-Mother-SAA feel. You can consider SAX as a Southwest/Frontier African equivalent. SAX offers their passengers meal boxes on their domestic flights but here comes the catch- your paying sky rocket fees for a LCC…


The Hummingbirds is what I call them. They literally crashed into a school ground last year and had 3 accidents in a time span of 4 months. With the possibility of the airline closing down, Airlink employees quickly wrote some comments on Facebook hoping that it would save their airline. As a result, more journalists pointed fingers to Airlink’s then rapidly shrinking reputation. Will The Hummingbirds ever be successful? If the day arrives when SAA brings SAX and Airlink back under their wing.


You cannot miss Mango’s B737-800 from the ground. They are mango coloured! Mango is SAA’s response to the flood of low cost carriers (LCC) in South Africa. Mango took SAA’s cabin and put Mango logos all over it, like a real cheap LCC.

Also, their inflight magazine is called “Juice.”


If it wasn’t for their sponsor planes, you could also spot 1time from the ground. The are red, hot red! The first time I flew 1time (1time.aero back then) I flew the Nando’s plane. It was red and decorated with Nando’s chicken catch phrases. (“This plane flies at 30,000 feet and 60,000 chicken feet”). 1time’s planes now consists of the Avis, Pushkin Vodka (not for sale to persons under 18!), the Smiley Plane and Go Zanzibar. “More nice, less price,” is their slogan.


Definitely one of the success stories of South African Aviation. Flying 101 has caught international attention and even on Airline Reporter. Kulula is actually a British Airways Comair initiative that has bought the spark back into the LCC industry. Kulula has also been voted best LCC to Africa.

Their liveries include Flying 101 of course, Jetsetter, Camoplane, Zippy plane, da udder plane, THIS WAY UP and 3 World cup celebrating planes sponsored by Europcar.

Kulula was asked by FIFA to remove the “Unofficial National carrier of the You-know-what” titles because for copyright infringements.


What?! An European carrier in the midst of South African unknowns? Comair operates plenty of domestic flights for BA. The only catch is that your are bound to be flying some old 737 that makes a lot of noise.

So hopefully when you watch the soccer on TV you will remember that South Africa also has a pretty rich aviation industry!

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: david@airlinereporter.com

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