How Airlink went from regional franchisee to major African airline

After spending three decades in South African Airways’ shadow, Airlink has emerged to become the nation’s biggest carrier and the continent’s second largest airline, as Andreas Spaeth discovers

From Johannesburg’s O R Tambo International – Africa’s biggest airport – it’s just a short drive over a highway and pot-holed streets to the other side of the apron and Airlink’s maintenance facility. But that’s when you arrive in ‘real’ Africa. This is made extremely clear by signs outside neighbouring businesses: “Caution – watch out for snakes!” is exclaimed in capital letters, accompanied by an illustration of a reptile, for those unable to read fast enough.

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