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As part of its expedition to enable trade and unlock mobility in the continent, the leading carrier in sub-Saharan Africa, South African Airways, SAA, is to commence Abuja operations beginning from January 26, 2016.
Addressing the media yesterday at the South African High Commission, Abuja, Aaron Munetsi, South African Airways head for Africa, said the expansion had become necessary in view of the fact that Nigeria is one of the fastest growing air travel markets in sub-Saharan Africa.
Mr Munetsi, who said the airline had been operating in Lagos since 1998, said establishing a second entry point in Nigeria formed part of the airline’s long term turnaround strategy.
“We are so proud to be an African Airline that we want to share everything that we have in terms of experiences and expertise with our fellow Africans. For us, there is no responsibility without leadership. Today, we are so proud to be announcing the commencement of South African Airways operations in Abuja. We have been operating in Lagos since 1998 and we have been developing our business and relationship in Nigeria so much so that it has become absolutely necessary for us to come Abuja, the nation’s capital, to open the second gateway.
“A second entry point in Nigeria forms part of our long-term turnaround strategy, which identified growth on the African continent as one of our key objectives. Nigeria is one of the fastest growing air travel markets in Sub-Saharan Africa and will be well served with our additional services in Abuja.
“Introducing Abuja as a second entry point in Nigeria will add more travel options, especially for the business community and will enhance our footprint on the continent.
“Enhancing air travel links with Nigeria speaks to the growth in bilateral relations between South Africa and Nigeria. The two countries historically have had strong economic, diplomatic, social and fraternal ties. These are the two economic powerhouses of Africa, with much more to offer and share.
“One of the things we are so proud of at South African airline is that, it is now fourteen consecutive years that we have been awarded the best airline in Africa. This award did not come because we have a beautiful colour or because we have the most beautiful crew on board; it comes because we have been voted by the travelling public. We beat the likes of British Airways, Virgin Atlantic in their own backyards. We want to continue with being the best airline in Africa for as many years as it takes.
He explained that the airlines advent into Abuja “comes with a big history as wanting to share a lot of things not only in the flying experience but the African experience of sharing with our Nigerian brothers the expertise that we have.
It also suffice to state here that we are a member of Star Alliance; this implies that Abuja is going to be exposed to more than 180 airports worldwide starting from the 26th of January 2016.
“it means that we are going to expose our African youths to the rest of the world as we fly to more than 60 destinations worldwide.”
Explaining further why this development is healthy for both Nigeria and South Africa, Ambassador Lulu Louis Mnguni, South Africa’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, said Africa was at the centre of his country’s foreign policy.
He revealed further that Africa takes primary importance SA’s foreign policy.
We put first the consolidation of African Agenda in our principles. We are glad this day has finally arrived where we have the South African Airways, our pride being able to fly from Abuja to Johannesburg and of course back to Abuja.