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SAA During Apartheid Rule  
User currently offlineDIJKKIJK From France, joined Jul 2003, 1884 posts, RR: 4
Posted (12 years 2 days 7 hours ago) and read 8850 times:

I'm just curious to know something about South African Airways during apartheid rule.

Were blacks allowed to fly, and if so were they seated in a separate section of the aircraft?

Were there any black Pilots or cabin attendants?

Never argue with idiots. They will bring you down to their level, and beat you with experience.
33 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
User currently offlineRednose From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2002, 46 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (12 years 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 8748 times:

Yes, they were allowed to fly and no they were not seated separately or treated differently in any way. As to crew, I don't think there were any.

User currently offlineLima From Argentina, joined May 1999, 1122 posts, RR: 13
Reply 2, posted (12 years 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 8665 times:

I have a copy of a SAA inflight magazine (Springbok) from I think 1987 or 88. On the news section there is a brief article stating that SAA incorporated its first black cabin crews. So apparently in the previous years it was not the case.

Also I read on a book once over commercial aviation that during the apartheid some SAA cabin crews were a sort of secret agents of the state intelligence service. They would be used to listen to conversations of passengers, sort of spies. I don't have the book with me or the author to confirm but could that be true?

User currently offlineJGPH1A From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (12 years 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 8613 times:

One of the bizarre rule under apartheid was "international status" - any facility that was deemed to have "international status" was not segregated - this applied to major hotels and airlines and (I think) the airport (I can't remember).
This "international status" also applied to people of colour from outside South Africa, who were considered as "honorary whites". So no, SAA's aircraft were not segregated.

User currently offlineTokolosh From Netherlands, joined Sep 2001, 366 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (12 years 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 8609 times:

SAA used to be nicknamed "Slow Around Africa" because it was not allowed to fly over Africa during the Apartheid era. Then there was an airline called Luxavia (not Luxair!) which was reportedly 90% owned by SAA which offered cheap flights to Europe flying over Africa (until they were caught out with spy camera's mounted in the aircraft's nose!).
Just a comment on Rednose's answer, black crew only began to appear in the dying years of apartheid. As to blacks traveling on SAA, this was a very rare sight since a) South African blacks didn't have passports and b) could not afford to fly in any case. Furthermore, if you did encounter a black person on an SAA flight it would most likely have been a government minister or official of a puppet homeland "state" who, incidentally, would have been on SA passports since no other country in the world recognised the homelands!!!
What a strange time it was.

Did the chicken or the egg get laid first?
User currently offlineJohnnybgoode From Germany, joined Jan 2001, 2187 posts, RR: 6
Reply 5, posted (12 years 2 days ago) and read 8489 times:

in those days, when SAA was not allowed to overfly the rest of africa, how did they reach Europe? westbound or east bound, heading first to the arabian peninsula and then on to Europe???


If only pure sweetness was offered, why's this bitter taste left in my mouth.
User currently onlineRayChuang From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 8194 posts, RR: 4
Reply 6, posted (12 years 2 days ago) and read 8477 times:

SAA used to fly from JNB/CPT to the Cape Verde Islands for a technical stop for fuel, then fly on to Europe. That's why SAA bought 747SP's so they could fly from Europe to JNB/CPT non-stop around the African continent.

User currently offlineTokolosh From Netherlands, joined Sep 2001, 366 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (12 years 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 8401 times:

They also used to stop in Windhoek. If I'm not mistaken they sometimes would make a second stop (not necessary with the SP) in Lisbon.

Did the chicken or the egg get laid first?
User currently offlineZSSNC From Germany, joined Feb 2003, 428 posts, RR: 8
Reply 8, posted (12 years 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 8353 times:

In addition to the already mentioned stops in SID and WDH, SAA also used to stop in LPA. But what I have heard is that during those times not even stops in those places were guaranteed for SAA so it was more or less a game of chance where the flight would make its fuel stop.


Airbus A340-600 - the longest temptation in the sky
User currently offlineDETA737 From United States of America, joined Oct 2000, 613 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (12 years 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 8320 times:

Until August of 1963 SAA operated flights over Africa via East Africa with stops in Nairobi. In that year the member states of the Organisation of African Unity banned South African or Portuguese aircraft from overflying their territory. With only hours notice SAA rerouted its flights without disruption or cancellation of any of its flights. Flights were originally routed via Luanda, Salisbury (Harare), Windhoek, Las Palmas or Sal. By 1973 non-stop flights to London were introduced with 747s. The independence of Angola in 1975 ended SAA's presence there, but within a year SAA would begin recieving 747SPs which would allow it to fly further. These flights made SAA's routes to Europe longer than their competitors that were allowed to overfly Africa.
On a sidenote, some African countries did allow SAA landing rights such as Botswana, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zimbabwe. Here's a look at the flights that SAA operated to Europe in 1982 (all flights were operated with 747s):


These routings made SAA's flights considerably longer. For instance JNB-SID-LHR was exactly 2 hours longer than British Airway's JNB-NBO-LHR flight. The difference was even more dramatic on routes like JNB-LIS-ATH which was 6 hours longer than Olympic Airways' JNB-NBO-ATH service. Luckilly for SAA they had pooling agreements with many airlines that flew to South Africa including: Aerolineas Argentinas, Air Madagascar, Air Malawi, Air Rhodesia, Alitalia, British Airways, DETA, Iberia, KLM, Lesotho Airways, Lufthansa, Olympic Airways, Qantas, Royal Swazi Airways, Sabena, Swissair, TAP, UTA and Varig. These agreements helped them share revenue on certain routes. For instance I read an article from 1972 how SAA recieved substantial revenue from Olympic Airways because of the pooling agreement between the two carriers.

As for their segregation policies, I know that in the early 1960s JNB had seperate customs lines for whites and non-whites I'm not sure if this changed before 1991. SAA as far as I know was desegregated though I doubt many non-whites flew this airline.

User currently offlinePatroni From Luxembourg, joined Aug 1999, 1403 posts, RR: 13
Reply 10, posted (12 years 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 8192 times:

@ Tokolosh:
Then there was an airline called Luxavia (not Luxair!) which was reportedly 90% owned by SAA which offered cheap flights to Europe flying over Africa (until they were caught out with spy camera's mounted in the aircraft's nose!).

If I recall right, it was not SAA but rather Trek Airways (also from South Africa) behind Luxavia. The aircraft (B707, A300, then 747SP) were registered in Luxembourg and operated in Luxair colours. As an officially Luxembourgish carrier they were allowed to fly over Africa rather than "around the bulge" like SAA.

I have never heard the story with the spy cameras. Do you have any source for that? Besides, considering the route from Europe to JNB, there is hardly anything to spy?



User currently offlineTokolosh From Netherlands, joined Sep 2001, 366 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (12 years 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 8120 times:

Hello Tom,

There was some kind of relationship between Luxavia and Trek Airways but the planes were SAA's just painted in Luxair's colour scheme. I mentioned earlier that SAA owned 90% of Luxavia, but I'd also heard that it was actually the SAAF (Air Force). Since you study aviation history, maybe you would know where I could look for more information, though I've looked a lot on the net and there is precious little on Luxavia except for a site by an ex-stewardess:
http://www.geocities.com/TheTropics/Cabana/1194/index.htm. I doubt there is much more to find since South Africa at the time was a secretive, paranoid place and there was strict press censorship.

Which brings us to the question of the camera. I cannot verify that but remember reading a small article tucked deep inside a newspaper, probably in early 1981, which said Zambia had discovered the plane was carrying a spy camera (it was the 747-SP). If you know where I could find out more I'd appreciate hearing it. Anyway, something was definitely up: I flew on that plane in December 1980 over Africa, but for the return trip in January or early February 1981 we flew around Africa! That sort of colloborates the story. You ask what there was to spy. Firstly, there was heavy South African (and Cuban) involvement in the war in Angola and, secondly, the then banned African National Congress was based in Zambia.



Did the chicken or the egg get laid first?
User currently offlinePatroni From Luxembourg, joined Aug 1999, 1403 posts, RR: 13
Reply 12, posted (12 years 22 hours ago) and read 8037 times:


Thanks for posting the link again, I had lost it when migrating to my new PC  Smile

When I was in Cape Town in January, I went to some antique book shops, looking for old memorabilia (timetables etc.) from the "Springbok", SAA. In one shop, the lady apologized that she doesn't have anything about SAA, but about an airline which I maybe knew : Trek Airways. Since I am working in Luxembourg, Trek Airways/Luxavia was of course a well known name for me... so we had a nice chat during which it turned out that she was the regional Manager for Luxavia/Trek Airways and Flitestar in the Cape region. Really a small world...The next day I had purchased a couple of old timetables (with 707 and 747SP), some post cards and a big picture showing a 707 over JNB in full Trek Airways colors - in which it never flew due to political reasons.

From what I heard from some colleagues who were already in LX), Luxembourg">LUX during the Luxavia days, this operation was always a bit on the edge because besides the LX-registration, everyone knew who was behind it. This might also explain why it had to fly around the bulge for some time?

If you are interested, I can see to scan some of the stuff which I got from Luxavia. Will take a while though.



User currently offlineCV990 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (12 years 22 hours ago) and read 8010 times:


I used to see quite often SAA in Lisbon during the "apartheid" years. I strongly believe that TAP and SAA fleets during the 60's and early 70's had to do a lot with he fact that both were banned from flying over Africa. TAP opted for the Boeing after SAA started using it and also opted for the 727-100 almost at the same as SAA and the 747 also. In 1961 just before the rebel movements started to fight in the portuguese colonies ( Angola, Mozambique and Guine-Bissau ) TAP used to stop with their Super Constellation flights at Kano. TAP stared to deviate from the SAA filosophy when the coupe d'etat came to Portugal in 1974, then TAP had to review all the african strategy, TAP had 4 747 and didn't need them. I think if the revolution didn't came in 1974 TAP would built a strong 747 fleet and also a 747SP fleet too.
I flew in SAA in 1983, so still in apartheid times, from ATH to LIS in a 747-244B ZS-SAO, the service was excelent but I didn't see any black people in the plane, I think the black community although they could fly in SAA never wanted because of that political situation.

User currently offlineDc863 From Denmark, joined Jun 1999, 1564 posts, RR: 2
Reply 14, posted (12 years 20 hours ago) and read 7945 times:

SAA frequently flew cargo for South Africa's nuclear and other weapons related departments. ZS-SAS which crashed off of Mauritius in 1987 was a Combi which was reportedly flying some secret military cargo from Taipei.

User currently offlineRichard28 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2003, 1682 posts, RR: 6
Reply 15, posted (12 years 19 hours ago) and read 7924 times:

Fascinating stuff.

I'm a little confused on why TAP was singled out as a European airline not able to flew over the African continent.

my history is obviously lacking here, but I would have thought that BA would also have been in this position, due to the UK's refusal to impose sanctions on South Africa?

I'd appreciate a quick history lesson!

User currently offlineLuisinho From Portugal, joined Nov 2000, 230 posts, RR: 1
Reply 16, posted (12 years 19 hours ago) and read 7909 times:

Hiii folks  Big thumbs up

Sad times indeed  Sad i hate racist people, but... there's a lot of them around.

Luxavia flew here to Faro (LPFR) some charter flights, i remember to go airport and see the aircrafts there... Boeings 747-SP. But for Faro they operated with Luxavia and SAA.

That's true, the Luxavia was painted with a color scheme near to Luxair just to try to cheat and fly over african continent.

One very interesting comment... i remember that i saw a Timetable from Luxair, and near the center page was an advertisement of Luxavia, announcing flights from Luxembourg Nonstop to Johannesburg. IF THIS IS NOT CHEAT I DONT KNOW WHAT TO CALL IT!!! they were trying to elude people that Luxavia had something with Luxair, and above all, why Luxair allowed advertisements to other airline on their timetables?

See some pictures of the aircrats:
This was the 747SP with colors like Luxair, flying to Faro (LPFR) - 1980

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Pedro Aragão

This was the 747SP with SAA old colors flying to FARO (LPFR) - 1983

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Pedro Aragão

This was the 747SP with SAA new old colors flying to FARO (LPFR) - 1987

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Pedro Aragão

[Edited 2003-08-30 22:11:53]

User currently offlineObithomas From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 131 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (12 years 19 hours ago) and read 7869 times:

I believe the reason TAP was singled out was that Portugal was the only country in the 1970s to have an African colony, Mozambique.

User currently offlineSAA-SAL From Belgium, joined Nov 2000, 356 posts, RR: 3
Reply 18, posted (12 years 18 hours ago) and read 7846 times:

Very interesting stuff.

I flew about six round trips with Luxavia between LUX and JNB between 1988 and 1991 because it was cheaper than SABENA direct to BRU. Everytime I flew this flight we flew over the african continent because the pilots were always telling the passengers to look out and see the sand dunes of the Sahara desert...

Great flights with great memories! The best flights of my life.

Cheers SAA-SAL

SAA B747 SP, Luxavia B747 SP
User currently offlineDETA737 From United States of America, joined Oct 2000, 613 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (12 years 17 hours ago) and read 7787 times:

TAP was banned from overflying African countries because Portugal refused to grant independence to its African territories (Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe). Portugal was a dictatorship until 1974 that maintained that the overseas territories in Africa and Asia were integral parts of Portugal and therefore self-determination was not open to discussion. Add to this that after Rhodesia's unilateral declaration of independence in 1965 the Portuguese along with South Africa refused to adopt sanctions against the white-minority regime there. Therefore by 1974 Portugal only had diplomatic relations with two black-ruled nations: Swaziland and Malawi (both of which are landlocked and dependent on transport links through Mozambique).

Back to SAA, I also forgot to mention that to stay competitive during this era of having longer flights to Europe they tried to give better service. For instance long after other carriers had introduced 10 abreast seating on their 747s, they kept 9 abreast seating.

User currently offlineCV990 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 20, posted (12 years 17 hours ago) and read 7779 times:


LUXAVIA/Luxair also did some flight from LIS, I remember seeing at least one 707 with full Luxair colours in LIS. The 747SP was there from time to time. I still recall seeing SAA flying to LIS with the 707. Last time I saw it was 1979 when ZS-SAD came to LIS.

User currently offlineTokolosh From Netherlands, joined Sep 2001, 366 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (12 years 5 hours ago) and read 7697 times:

Hi folks  Smile

Dc863: Concerning the flight you mention, the plane's name was the "Helderberg" and its crash is steeped in secrecy. The truth has never come out but there are rumours aplenty. I'll sort of summarise the most consistent and frequent ones. The cargo was reportedly a very volatile substance called Red Mercury that must be kept at a constant temperature not varying by more than a couple of degrees either way, otherwise it becomes unstable (and then boom?). This stuff was probably meant for military chemical or nuclear programmes, possibly in cooperation with Israel and Taiwan. The cockpit crew (often ex-airforce) were aware of the cargo and the captain was refusing to take off from Tapei, but he was ordered to do so otherwise he and his colleagues in the cockpit would never fly for SAA again and life would be made impossible for them in South Africa. Sounds like fiction, hey! Anyway, they departed and now they lie deep under the ocean.
Some people, out there somewhere, know the truth. Given that South Africa is making a new start, they should reveal what happened -- they owe it to the victims, the families, and perhaps even themselves.
When I have time I might surf around and see if I can find more information.


Did the chicken or the egg get laid first?
User currently offlineKaitak From Ireland, joined Aug 1999, 12956 posts, RR: 34
Reply 22, posted (12 years 5 hours ago) and read 7687 times:

I have also heard stories about cabin crew who fed information to BOSS (the Bureau of State Security - what a superb acronym) about passengers and what they were talking about.

User currently offlineMats From Israel, joined Jul 2003, 654 posts, RR: 1
Reply 23, posted (12 years 2 hours ago) and read 7637 times:

It makes historical sense that members of SAA/SAL cabin crews were connected with the BOSS. Eastern Bloc countries were famous for using airline employees for espionage purposes.

Interesting what you say about service as their competitive edge. Everyone always talked about how wonderful SAA's service was on board.

This is by far the most interesting topic I've come across in a long time. I always wondered about SAA's arrangements during apartheid.

User currently offlineClipperNo1 From Germany, joined May 1999, 672 posts, RR: 2
Reply 24, posted (12 years 2 hours ago) and read 7617 times:

Were there any other states in the world, especially in europe, which didn't grant SAA overfly or landing rights?

I just searched the web and I couldn't find anything about a later declared cause of the 'Heldenberg' crash, nor that this was a subject of post-arpatheid
'Truth Commission'.

Very good thread.

"I really don't know one plane from the other. To me they are just marginal costs with wings."� Alfred Kahn, 1977
25 Motorhussy : The first black South African sportsman to fly Suid Afrikaans Lugdiens was Errol Tobias back in 1981. He was a SpringBok, SAfrican rugby team and a ve
26 Post contains links and images Ljungdahl : About the Luxavia South Africa flights, I know there was a period when they had a weekly flight that passed thru Athens (late Saturday eve) just for r
27 Targowski : i am curious about their landing rights in north america. when exactly were they banned? i know that they used to fly to houston with SPs with a tech
28 Tokolosh : Hi ClipperNo1, I've looked quickly and there seems to be a lot on the Helderberg (not Heldenberg). First site I came across: http://www.helderberg-ac
29 ClipperNo1 : Albert, thanks mate. One false letter is enough to find nothing, eh?! My fault. Just read through it and it seems like there is still a lot of 'cover
30 DETA737 : About their landing rights SAA began service to New York in 1969 via Rio de Janeiro with 707s and in 1976 via Sal with 747SPs. In December of 1982 the
31 Post contains images DoorsToManual : Any books on the history of SAA/SAL? My only claim to relevance here is having used SAA from NBO to JNB, an A320 called 'Blue Crane', back in 1993. Th
32 Tokolosh : Tom, What a nice story about what happened to you in Cape Town with all that historic stuff -- it is a small world indeed. A picture or so would be ni
33 Ctbarnes : Lima and Mats' assertion about SAA flight attendants being part of the BOSS security apparatus is correct. Anthony Sampson's book Empires of the Sky,
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