Airlink, newly independent, now Africa’s second-largest airline

Airlink – South Africa’s independent regional – now Africa’s second-largest airline

Airlink’s 92-seat Embraer 190s form the backbone of its operation, with just under half of all seats in the southern hemisphere summer.

South Africa’s Airlink became an independent carrier in late 2020 as its tie with South African Airways was severed.

The regional airline now has almost 1.2 million seats this winter with three-quarters deployed domestically, OAG schedules data shows.

Airlink is now the third-largest carrier within Africa by seats – rising to second when flights are considered.  This is obviously from its low-capacity aircraft. 

Airlink has six types of aircraft – from Embraer 190 to Cessna Caravan – indicating the breadth of its network.

It also suggests the degree to which it attempts to right-size, where infrastructure allows, although it is a very complex mixture.

Airlink – South Africa’s independent regional – now Africa’s second-largest airline (2)

Airlink has 63 routes this summer. Source: OAG Mapper.

Thick routes rule for Airlink

Airlink has 63 routes in the southern hemisphere summer, with its top route – Cape Town to Johannesburg – having nearly one-fifth of its capacity.

Deploying Embraer 190s on South Africa’s – and the continent’s – top market, located some 1,271 kilometres apart, is decidedly sub-optimal, at least in normal times.  

It primarily competes directly with B737-800s from various other carriers.  However, that is perhaps less significant now given that South African Airways isn’t operating.

Airlink’s core network revolves around thick or reasonably thick routes, both domestically and internationally.  It has three international routes – all from Johannesburg – within its top-10.

Johannesburg, Africa’s busiest airport, has over eight in ten of the operator’s seats this summer, although it is expanding elsewhere.

Cape Town to Harare will start on 1 February. It’ll be one of 16 routes from the airport and one of six international.

Over 46,000 P2P round-trip passengers flew Cape Town – Harare in 2019, booking data indicates.

RwandAir’s three-weekly service, en route to/from Kigali, uses B737-700 and -800s.  It’ll compete directly with Airlink’s once-daily, Embraer 170-operated service.

Airlink – South Africa’s independent regional – now Africa’s second-largest airline

Johannesburg has more than eight in ten of Airlink’s total seats this summer. Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.


  1. Gaurav Agarwal says:

    Interesting article. I wonder if Airlink is looking at this 220 video from Jetblue

Comments are closed