Airlink, Southern Africa’s premier, independent and privately owned regional airline, has been recognised at the prestigious international Airline Strategy Awards for its successful reinvention as an independent operator in one of the world’s toughest and contested markets.

Airlink CEO and Managing Director, Rodger Foster, accepted the Executive Leadership: Africa & Middle East award on behalf of Airlink at a ceremony in London last night.

“It is an honour to receive this prestigious award on behalf of Airlink, our 2,300 direct employees and over 10,000 downstream families who benefit from and depend upon Airlink’s well-being, as well as our board of directors, shareholders, financial stakeholders, lessors, suppliers and business partners. It is true that the pandemic tested the mettle of every airline the world over, but it created the opportunity for us to re-think and re-model Airlink and step into the sun on our own terms – without shedding a single job,” said Airlink CEO and Managing Director, Rodger Foster.

“While Rodger Foster has led Airlink for more than 30 years, it is the airline’s successful reinvention as an independent operator, flying in one of the toughest of markets, that has caught the eye. Airlink turned a challenging situation into a market opportunity, impressively seizing the chance to establish itself as a new independent carrier in South Africa by building a strong domestic and regional network,” explained Graham Dunn, executive editor of FlightGlobal, the 110-year old international aerospace and air transport news, publishing & analytics group.

Airlink CEO & Managing Director, Rodger Foster, last night accepted the 2023 Airline Strategy Award for Africa & Middle East from (left) Graham Dunn, Executive Editor, FlightGlobal, and (right) Lewis Harper, Editor, Airline Business.


The initial COVID-19 hiatus allowed Airlink’s leadership to reinvent the airline. They asserted its independence by ending a long-standing franchise with SAA, launching flights and ticket sales under Airlink’s own “4Z” code, adopting its distinctive “Sunbird” livery and expanding its network, schedule and fleet.

Airlink’s fleet of 62 modern jetliners provides comprehensive connectivity to 45 destinations across Southern and East Africa, Madagascar and St Helena island.

During this period Airlink has also established a constellation of commercial partnerships, including code-shares, with many of the world’s leading inter-continental carriers.

“Having the network breadth, scheduling depth and ability to serve our growing customer base is one side of the equation in building our brand and increasing our market presence. Just as important is providing extraordinary and great value service,” said Mr Foster.

“Airlink pitches itself as a premium regional carrier, and that positioning is underlined by its building of a network of partnerships with global players. Judges were further impressed that it has adopted a wider strategy in the region with its stake in FlyNamibia. The judges also suggested that Airlink’s strategy shift is repeatable elsewhere in Africa, proving you don’t need to be a huge airline with huge financial resources to succeed,” added Dunn.

(Photos credit: Leo Johnson, FlightGlobal)
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