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Qantas pulls plug on SAA deal

The Australian airline has cancelled a lucrative codeshare deal with the SA national carrier.

SAA has suffered a blow with the cancellation of its deal allowing passengers to fly with Qantas between Johannesburg and Sydney. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Qantas, the Australian national carrier, has pulled the plug on its codeshare agreement with South African Airways (SAA).

The deal was an arrangement which allowed passengers to book flights from Johannesburg to Sydney, for example, through the SAA website while Qantas would provide the flight itself.

It had been in place since SAA stopped flights on the route in 2000.

Editor and Publisher of SA Flyer Magazine Guy Leitch says this is a standard arrangement in the modern air travel industry.

"These days, airlines can't operate by themselves - they have to have codeshare partners give them passengers, feeders, connectors, shared routes and so on."

He says competition complications are behind the cancellation.

Leitch says it is a clear indication of the way airline geopolitics are changing.

He explains that SAA is in a deal with Etihad, and in Australia it's in bed with Virgin Australia and, in New Zealand, with that country's national carrier.

Qantas, meanwhile, has a deal with Emirates, which directly competes with Etihad.

Joking that the whole industry is becoming "incestuous", Leitch explains that authorities have become concerned by the various deals.

"Australian competition authorities were taking a very dim view of further cooperation between two competitors, so there was a lot of pressure to cancel the codeshare."

He says the cancellation will kick in at the beginning of July, and will likely see various ramifications when it does so.

For one thing, he says, the Johannesburg-Sydney route may be completely cancelled, meaning passengers will have to fly via Dubai.

Meanwhile, commenting on rumours that SAA will be spending less on training pilots, Leitch expresses surprise.

"If anything, it's going to be spending R200 million more," he exclaimed.

He says while the process of pilot training is experiencing changes, there is no indication that this will decrease the quality of those in the cockpit.

The national carrier is currently implementing its ninth turnaround strategy in the face of serious financial difficulties.