July 28, 2021

South African Airways back in the sky this summer?

The airline company South African Airways hopes to restart flights in July or August next – if the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic allows it, and if it manages to resolve the conflict with its pilots.

Placed under administration since December 2019 and deprived of commercial flights since last September, the South African national company left the process of protection against creditors in early May 2021 (the survival of its low cost Mango being assured at least temporarily). And on Friday, the Managing Director of South African Airways Thomas Kgokolo (his 13th in twelve years) announced before a parliamentary committee ” study July-August 2021 ” as ” draft or proposal »Resumption of commercial flights from the airport Johannesburg-OR Tambo.

In addition to the obvious problem of the health crisis and the travel restrictions it entails, the company Star Alliance is still struggling with his pilots, whose union SAAPA accuses SAA of using “strike breakers” – and has called for judicial intervention. She seeks in particular pilot-instructors for technical and operational “bringing up to standards”, within an already greatly reduced number of airmen; one of its planes had been seized in Brussels precisely because the pilots had not been properly certified.

South African Airways must also settle the unpaid wages in particular pilots, 400 of whom had been prevented from returning to work because they refused a new collective agreement. The CEO admitted facing a ” complex problem Which he will try to resolve at a new meeting this week.

But these hopes – measured – face another storm, thecorruption investigation surrounding the leasing contracts of its planes : 84 contracts for 44 devices have now been scrutinized by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) South Africa, as part of its broader investigations into corruption, fraud and maladministration in state institutions. Exaggerated prices, front companies, conflicts of interest, non-execution or fictitious suppliers are among the axes of attack of the SIU, including the acquisition of 15 Airbus whose deliveries had been postponed for lack of payment – with lease of the A320 necessarily costly at the end of the day.

Already given for dead and then resuscitated, more particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic), the Star Alliance company has been in the red since 2011 and on a drip for years, subjected to endless political interventions. According to the rescue plan unveiled last summer, the “new South African Airways, restructured, competitive, created from the old” would be according to the government “the best option to get back into the air immediately” – and avoid liquidation . She now only has twelve planes : three A319s, one A330-300 and eight A340-300 and -600

©South African Airlines

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