Virgin Australia brings back direct flights to Johannesburg through South African Airways codeshare

Virgin Australia will sell direct flights to Johannesburg for the first time in nearly four years after striking a codeshare agreement with South African Airways.

The new partnership comes after Qantas Airways and South African Airways severed their alliance on flights between Sydney and Johannesburg and Perth and Johannesburg earlier this year. Qantas had flown the Sydney-Johannesburg route, while South African Airways flew the Perth-Johannesburg sector under the alliance.

Members of Virgin's Velocity frequent flyer program will be able to earn points and status credits on the Perth-Johannesburg route, with connecting flights available on Virgin to east coast destinations.

Virgin had previously been selling Johannesburg flights with partner Singapore Airlines that required a stop-over in Singapore, lengthening the flight time considerably.

Virgin had entered the Melbourne-Johannesburg route with its own Boeing 777s in 2010 but quit the route less than a year later after experiencing heavy losses.

The Virgin flight time was two hours longer than it would have been otherwise in both directions because it chose to use a twin-engined planes rather than the four-engined aircraft used by Qantas and South African Airways.

Qantas uses 747s on its Sydney-Johannesburg route and South African Airways uses A340s from Perth to Johannesburg.

The four-engined planes use routes that track close to Antarctica, whereas a two-engined aircraft had been required to be within 180 minutes of an airfield where it could land in an emergency situation on one engine.

South African Airways had already been offering its customers codeshares on Virgin flights connecting to the Perth-Johannesburg service since the collapse of its Qantas alliance earlier this year.

The Perth-Johannesburg route is particularly popular with the resources industry and the large community of South African expatriates in Perth.

Qantas now offers customers from Perth the option to either fly to Sydney and connect with its Sydney-Johannesburg service or to fly to Johannesburg via Dubai. Both options are several hours longer than a direct flight from Perth to Johannesburg.

Fares from Perth to Johannesburg will go on sale through Virgin's website from October 14 for travel from October 21.