By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK South African Airways (SAA) has gone into partnership with the leading aviation alliance in the world, Star Alliance. This partnership adds seventeen routes to its existing international routes. SAA Country Manager Heinz-Louis Benseler yesterday announced that the airline on Monday joined the Star Alliance that is a family of 17 world airlines and three regional carriers. Regional member carriers, which are Adria Airways (Slovenia), Blue1 (Finland) and Croatia Airlines, enable the Star Alliance network to offer new connections to smaller markets around the globe. The partnership, according to Benseler, is significant not only for South Africa and the countries it operates in, but for the entire continent for which there will be a spin-off. “This will bring the world to Africa and Africa to the world,” he stated. Spreading its wings to 20 destinations on its own and 30 destinations with its partners, the airline started negotiating to become a member in the year 2000. According to the President and Chief Executive Officer of SAA, Khaya Ngqula, the time had come for the South African airline to become a member of the Star Alliance. Given 57 requirements for one to qualify to become a member, Ngqula described the exercise as challenging but worthwhile. “This is truly one of the best achievements for the airline,” he stated. Further, the partnership is seen as a way to unveil the African skies and through its abundant African spirit it will inspire the world beyond the continent to consider visiting Africa and indulge in the beauty that it can offer. With over 15 000 global Star Alliance flights per day, the partnership is most likely to promote and boost the trade and tourism industry in the Southern African region and particularly Namibia. “We will focus on promoting the Southern African region and Namibia to be specific,” assured country manager Benseler. Star Alliance Chief Executive Officer Jaan Albrecht in flypast video material was quoted indicating that the Star Alliance is a successful partnership that would protect its leadership in the aviation industry. For South African Airways customers, the partnership would enable them to access the world easily and another advantage is the priority service that its customers get at airports. Star Alliance has over 600 lounges open to its customers around the world and would maintain its standards (hospitality) in this competitive industry, Albrecht added. Welcoming SAA on board, Chief Executive Officer of the German airline Lufthansa Wolfgang Mayrhuber congratulated SAA for being a member, adding that Lufthansa has long wanted SAA to be part of the Star Alliance family. He assured that his airline and other members of the alliance would collectively ensure that SAA achieves its vision to create mobility in the world, which is equally important for global development. Star Alliance is the first aviation alliance to include an African airline and SAA is the first African airline to join such an alliance. SAA is the leading airline on the African continent and is 72 years old. The airline carries more than 7 million passengers a year on a route network that serves 34 cities in 26 countries. SAA has a fleet of 60 aircraft. Star Alliance exists in 153 countries and has 852 destinations.
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