South African Airways (SAA) has tied up with Jet Airways to operate non-stop flights between Mumbai and Johannesburg with the African carrier assessing the Indian market to expand its presence here.
Announcing a code-share agreement with Jet, Sajid Khan, SAA's Country Manager here, said, "Our load factor on the Mumbai-Johannesburg route has been over 80 per cent. It is one of the highest on SAA's global network."
Under the agreement which is already in place, Jet would code-share on SAA flights between Mumbai and Johannesburg and beyond to Cape Town and Durban, while SAA would code-share on Jet operations between Mumbai and Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram.
The frequent flyer programme of Jet and SAA would be applicable to both airlines, that is a person travelling on a Jet flight would be able to earn and redeem mileage for use on SAA network and vice-versa.
Asked about expansion of SAA's India operations which are currently only out of Mumbai, Khan said, "We are currently looking at Delhi as an additional destination and assessing the market. Since we cannot start this in the next 1-2 years, we went in for this code-share agreement."
He said the code-share with Jet would "effectively enhance flight choices for customers, whether originating in India or Africa, through seamless and convenient connections and frequent flyer mileage opportunities."
Referring to a recent study of the South African Tourism Department, Khan said the number of Indian tourists to South Africa has steadily increased by over 122 per cent between 2005 and 2010 and a further 29 per cent between January and September 2011.
While South Africa was in demand for leisure travel, India was gaining prominence as a business travel destination from South Africa, SAA's India head said.
Khan, however, pointed out that the difficulties on getting transit visas from India was a major deterrent as it could give a boost to business travel to various African
nations via South Africa.
"We are working with the government here" to relax visa rules, he said.
Earlier in a statement, SAA's Acting General Manager (Commercial) Manoj Papa said, "The additional connectivity between Southern Africa and India due to the codeshare with Jet Airways will help strengthen tourism and trade ties between our two countries", supporting the objectives of the BRICS member states.