South African Airways (SAA) will partner with Virgin Australia through a new codeshare agreement announced this evening.
The alliance is a surprising one because South African is also a partner with Qantas – the Flying Kangaroo codeshares with SAA's flight from Perth to Johannesburg and Qantas' own Sydney-Johannesburg service.
The new alliance will allow SAA passengers to book from Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide – but not Sydney – onto SAA's Perth-Johannesburg flight by connecting to Perth on domestic Virgin Australia routes.
Those bookings can be made on the South African Airways website today for travel from February 11th.
Virgin Australia maintains its Johannesburg service through Singapore Airlines, as a full codeshare on SQ flights via Singapore, with full Velocity points and status credits earnings.
SAA considers the Virgin Australia partnership won't impact on the airline's joint venture with Qantas and notes that with the tie-up with Virgin Australia doesn't extend to Sydney as that city is already an anchor for the Qantas/SAA agreement.
SAA’s Country Manager for Australasia Tim Clyde-Smith noted that "we look forward to strengthening our partnership with Virgin Australia in the future."
Travellers on South African Airways can also connect through from SAA's flight into Perth onto Virgin Australia domestic services.
The Jo'burg joint venture
The alliance between Qantas and South African Airways on flights between Australia and Johannesburg will expire in December this year, so both airlines will have to re-apply to the International Air Services Commission if they intend for it to continue.
Qantas previously sought approval from the International Air Services Commission for the alliance to run through to March 2016 however the IASC describing the tie-up as an "effective duopoly", given that Qantas and South African Airways are the only airlines offering direct flights between the two countries.
"The commission is concerned that [the code-share] may deter or delay the introduction of competing services, particularly on the Sydney route, and increase barriers to entry" it said when passing its limited extension to the QF/SA hook-up.
''The commission is not satisfied that the code share would be of benefit to the public beyond 2014.'"
There has been speculation that Qantas will axe its Sydney-Johannesburg route, which operates using a fuel-thirsty Boeing 747-400, as one of many measures to curtail the airline's financial losses, which it expects to be in the range of $250-300 million for the July-December 2013 half-year.
Qantas would shift to serving Johannesburg via Dubai, using codeshare flights currently operated by its partner Emirates.
Emirates also flies directly from Dubai to Cape Town and Durban.
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