South African Express Airways was formed in 1994 by a holding company owned by the Government of South Africa. In its early history, SA Express was a wholly-owned subsidiary of South African Airways (SAA), the national flag carrier of South Africa. The airline went on to fly to 24 destinations using a fleet of 9 to 24 planes, including several Bombardier Dash 8 vehicles.
Years of Operation
During its 26 years of operation, South African Express was a regional airline and served South Africa and some neighboring countries, such as Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and The Congo. The airline was headquartered at O. R. Tambo International Airport in Kempton Park, South Africa.
At its peak, the airline operated to over 20 destinations in South Africa and neighboring countries. Some of the destinations served by SA Express over the years include:
South Africa: Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth, East London, Kimberley, Bloemfontein, George, Richards Bay, Hoedspruit, Mthatha, and others.
Botswana: Gaborone, Maun, Kasane
Namibia: Windhoek, Walvis Bay
Zimbabwe: Harare, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls
In 2006, SA Express was spun off from SAA and became a standalone airline. The move was intended to improve the airline’s operational efficiency and financial performance.
However, SA Express faced financial difficulties throughout its history. The airline relied heavily on government subsidies to remain afloat and was often criticized for its high operating costs and poor management. In 2018, SA Express was grounded by the South African Civil Aviation Authority due to safety concerns, and its operating license was temporarily suspended.
Despite safety concerns, in 2018, South African Express also was awarded an International Star Quality Award and one of the Top 500 Best Managed Companies.
In 2020, amidst the worldwide COVID pandemic, passenger traffic was severely affected, and South African Express Airways eventually filed for bankruptcy protection with the Government of South Africa. Eventually its planes, spare parts, and other assets were sold at auction.
- Year Started: 1994
- Year Ended: 2020
- Origin Of Name: Descriptive
- Location Sales: South Africa and neighboring countries
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Government of South Africa
- Owner While In Use: Government of South Africa
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: South African Airways
- Naics Code: 481111
- Location Headquarters: Kempton Park, South Africa