South African Airways Cuts Washington To Dakar Flights

Filed Under: South African Airways

South African Airways will be mixing up their US route network soon, as they cut flights to Dakar and increase flights to Accra.

South African Airways’ current US route network

South African Airways has two destinations in the US — New York JFK and Washington Dulles.

They take different approaches on these two routes, though:

  • They fly nonstop between New York and Johannesburg, using A340 aircraft; soon they’ll acquire some A350s, which will be used primarily for this route
  • They fly between Washington and Johannesburg using A330s with an intermediate stop in each direction; 5x weekly they route via Accra, Ghana, and 2x weekly they route via Dakar, Senegal

Well, it looks like South African Airways will soon be mixing up their network.

SAA cuts Dakar, increases Accra

As of next month, South African Airways will fly daily to Washington via Accra. This is coming at the expense of the Dakar to Washington route, which will operate for the last time on September 1, 2019.

Note that South African Airways is phrasing this as a “route suspension,” though without a date being named for when the route would resume, I think it’s questionable if/when that will actually happen.

With this change, Delta will be the only airline to fly nonstop between the US & Senegal anymore, as they fly 2x weekly from New York JFK.

So, what’s the motivation behind this?

  • The Washington DC area has a much bigger population from Ghana than Senegal
  • South African Airways has a partnership with Africa World Airlines, providing feed in the region beyond Accra (including to Abuja and Lagos in Nigeria, and Freetown in Sierra Leone

As executives from South African Airways and World Africa Airlines explain:

Welcoming these developments, SAA’s Acting CEO, Zuks Ramasia, stated: “One of the key pillars of our strategy is to connect South Africa to West Africa and beyond to North America. Our partnership with Africa World Airlines (AWA) continues to deepen with these new schedules and benefits customers across the African Continent.”

Sean Mendis, Chief Operating Officer at Africa World Airlines, is in agreement: “Expanding our co-operation with SAA means that passengers can enjoy quick and seamless connections between AWA and SAA flights in Accra’s new Terminal 3.”

The service via Accra will continue to operate with the following schedule:

SA209 Johannesburg to Accra departing 6:30PM arriving 10:35PM
SA209 Accra to Washington departing 11:35PM arriving 6:25AM (+1 day)

SA210 Washington to Accra departing 5:40PM arriving 8:10AM (+1 day)
SA210 Accra to Johannesburg departing 9:10AM arriving 4:55PM

This eliminates one award chart sweet spot

While fairly niche, there is an interesting award travel angle here. The discontinuation of the Washington to Dakar route means the end of a great award chart sweet spot. Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is partners with South African Airways.

While they charge 55,000 miles for a one-way business class ticket from Washington to Accra, they charge just 25,000 miles for a one-way business class ticket from Washington to Dakar. That will no longer be possible.

Bottom line 

With South African Airways “suspending” their Washington to Dakar route, nonstop capacity between the US and Senegal is being halved, as only Delta is flying 2x weekly between New York and Dakar at this point.

  1. I’ve stopped in Dakar on that flight going to/from JNB. The planes were full on the Dakar-JNB legs but not to IAD.

    Both ways the stopover was dead middle of the night. No jetway, heat and bugs just poured into the plane.

    Two guys would come down the aisles each holding two cans of some sort of pesticide spray and walked the length of the plane spraying.

    We were told no need to worry, the spray was perfectly safe. But the guys were wearing masks.

    This wasn’t like 2003 either, it was within the last few years. But the food in business on those two flights was some of the best I’ve ever had on a plane.

  2. The most interesting part of this from my perspective is to find out that an FT old hand is now COO at AWA!

  3. SAA is obviously beefing up their presence at Accra because of the impending heavy trans-atlantic competition from Global Ghana Airlines.

  4. That’s a pity. I booked two seats in J on the December 29 Dulles to Dakar flight through Virgin Flying Club. Was planning to have a fun New Year’s in Senegal. Looks like that isn’t happening anymore.

  5. @Erasmus – I was actually employee #1 at AWA way back in 2010. Co-wrote the business plan, convinced HNA to come on board, and was the COO until the launch in 2012. Then was away from Ghana for a few years, but came back last year to the old position.

  6. We Senegalese in the US are so dissapointed about this decision.This is gonna hurt all of us and hope SAA will return flying to Dakar.

  7. Not entirely surprised, but disappointed, as I have wanted to goose the VA sweet spot.

    That bird has to stop somewhere and DC’s eastern suburbs have a decent Ghanaian community.

  8. As African we where just supporting an African airlines by flying saa that’s ok we will find a way to Senegal

  9. @Brian – Senegal opened a brand new airport in Dec 2017 with plenty of jetbridges, also that’s a super common practice of spraying the plane and it’s not harmful to you

  10. So bummed about this. Our vacation to Senegal 2-3 years ago was crazy memorable and beautiful. What a country! Americans will now be even less likely to get to know how great it is. As it was, there were basically no American tourists in the places we went. Now that’s not going to change! And the non-stop nature of the flight was definitely convenient. Hopefully it really is just a suspension with the DSS flight returning early 2020.

  11. Not sure reading this article if the Johannesburg to Dakar route is also suspended. All I read relates to the suspension of the Washington DC to Dakar route.

  12. @Alassane – per the press release (and I can’t give any more details at this time for obvious reasons).

    “At the same time, SAA is examining new opportunities to connect Dakar services through our Accra base. Whilst these plans are finalised, SAA will temporarily suspend services between Johannesburg and Dakar, with effect from 5th September 2019.”

  13. From a business point of view, I think it’s ok for the airline to make changes. This is the time for local airlines in Ghana to service the route.

  14. Bad news!
    I have a return flight from Dakar to Johannesburg on the 23th of September what should I do?
    Whish you the best!

  15. I just came back from Senegal on Friday and I was bragging about SAA to my husband how much I like it with the exception of the food.Well I just got back to Delta

  16. No worries! AMERICAN AIRLINES is starting PHL-CMN (Philadelphia- Casablanca) next June. Senegalese let patronize AMERICAN Airlines! With a stop in Casablanca and catch Air SENEGAL to DAKAR. Just a Bob Marley said « When one door closes many more open »
    If we make that route profitable for AA then they will think of opening a new Route from USA to Dakar!

  17. What about SAA nonstop from Atlanta to Senegal? My daughter loves SAA more than Delta. Its like college homecoming!

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