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Union Airways

Union Airways PTY LTD

Union Airways of South Africa was the first South African commercial airline. It operated as an independent company for five years, from 1929 to 1934, before being taken over by the government as South African Airways.


Union Airways were founded by Major Allister Miller, a World War I flying ace, who had recruited some 2000 South Africans for service in the Royal Air Force. The word "Union" referred to the official name of the country at that time: the Union of South Africa.

The company was financed by the Atlantic Refining Company, and supported by a small government subsidy. Its headquarters were initially at Fairview in Port Elizabeth, but they later moved to Stamford Hill in Durban. The corporate colours were red and yellow, and the logo was a shield depicting a stylised aircraft.

Union Airways was primarily a mail carrier, but from 1930 it also transported passengers.

The fleet originally consisted of five DH60 Gipsy Moths. A Fokker Super Universal and two DH Puss Moths were added in 1930, but all three crashed during 1931, two of the crashes being fatal.

To replace them, Union Airways acquired some Jan Smuts for an election tour.

The South African government bought Union Airways in 1934, and renamed it South African Airways.


  • Illsley, J.W. (2003). In Southern Skies.
  • Reader's Digest (1980). South Africa's Yesterdays.
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