Following a competitive tender process, DLA has been appointed as adviser on the airline's long-haul wide-bodied-aircraft fleet renewal programme.
It will work alongside New York firm Levin & Srinivasan and two local firms in South Africa.
SAA currently operates an all-Boeing fleet of 60 aircraft. But during the next two to three years, up to 15 new planes will be manufactured and delivered to the airline in a deal worth $2bn (£1.39bn).
Commenting on the appointment, DLA aviation partner and lead partner on the deal Graham Tyler said: “We're delighted that SAA has chosen DLA for the deal and we hope that the relationship will develop. However, we know that we have to perform well.”
The deal is particularly impressive given the problems in the aviation market following the events of 11 September.
In the past, DLA's Brussels office has advised SAA in relation to competition legislation. The London office has also acted for the lessor and the borrower opposite SAA. The most recent example was in June 2000, when it advised an undisclosed special purpose vehicle on the finance and purchase of two 747 aircraft.
“They'd like there to be a degree of skills transfer and they may send lawyers to us for internships”
Graham Tyler, DLA
SAA is also keen to use DLA in a consultancy-type role and would like its in-house department to learn from the relationship.
Tyler said: “They'd like there to be a degree of skills transfer and they may send lawyers to us for internships.”
SAA executive vice-president and general counsel Oyama Mabandla said that both DLA and Levin & Srinivasan were selected because their commitment to SAA went above and beyond the provision of legal services.
DLA's asset finance group has been particularly active in the past six months. In September, it took on the head of Ince & Co's shipbuilding practice Mike Pollen. Then in December, it fought off five firms, including Eversheds and Nicholson Graham & Jones, to become the main adviser to UK online travel agency ebookers.