South African Airways grounds fleet

The cash-strapped national carrier has suspended all operations while its administrator is trying to attract new sources of funding. Covid-19 travel bans that were partially lifted today
(01OCT20), a huge debt level, and poor support by the Pretoria government that had announced cash injections of US$621 as part of a broader restructuring plan but failed to release the funds,
have caused the financial hardship.

Restructuring plan was put on the backburner
This step has been on the horizon for some time now, as the ill-managed national carrier has been unprofitable since 1994, (with the exception of 2011). Hence, last December, SAA was forced to
file for creditor protection since the accumulated debts had surpassed 57 billion rand (US$3.9 billion). In MAR20, massive travel restrictions imposed by Pretoria to stop the corona pandemic from
further spreading, worsened the situation dramatically and torpedoed all plans to restructure the carrier. The concept targeted both fleet and network, which were supposed to be downscaled, and
included laying off staff, skipping loss making routes and instead concentrating on those that are profitable.

SAA has suspended all operations, including cargo flights. Image: company courtesy
SAA has suspended all operations, including cargo flights. Image: company courtesy


Cargo flights halted, too
Since the South African government locked the country down in March to stop the spread of COVID-19, South African Airways has not operated a single commercial flight. However, they have flown
cargo and repatriation flights. Yet, these will now also cease following the latest news, a spokesperson for the administrators announced: “All existing cargo and repatriation flights will be
undertaken. No new ones will be accepted.”

The coming weeks will show whether the airline survives or disappears from the African landscape. A tendency in one direction or the other is currently not apparent.

Today (01OCT20) Qatar Airways announced the resumption of three key destinations in South Africa: Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. The services will be operated by a mix of the airline’s
Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 aircraft. Including the new flights, QR operates 19 weekly services from its home base Doha to South Africa, offering cargo clients abundant lower deck capacity for
their freight consignments.


Heiner Siegmund


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Source: Cargoforwarder

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