How bad are things at the State-run airline, South African Airlines? So bad that, if rumours are to be believed, the airline is now in advanced talks with the likes of Emirates and Kenya Airlines to hire out its own staff – including most notably, pilots and cabin crew – in a desperate bid to stem mounting losses.
In the 12-months to March, the airline is reported to have lost $471 million USD – South African Airlines hasn’t made a profit since 2011 and survives on government-backed guarantees which total something in the region of $1.69 billion.
Many people are now pinning hope on a last-ditch survival attempt by new chief executive, Vuyani Jarana – a former executive at Vodacom. He has said that a cost-cutting strategy should return the airline to profitability by 2022.
“The hiring airline gets ready-made skills and we benefit from a reduction in overheads without people losing jobs,” Jarana has said about his plans to hire out his workforce to other airlines.
“We’ve got things they need, but also if they’re able to come through for us, then it’s a win-win,” he continued.
South African Airlines has allegedly held advanced talks with Emirates and Kenya Airways – although both have refused to comment on the speculation. It’s unclear whether the airlines involved in the talks would take temporary or permanent contracts.
According to Bloomberg, Jarana says it would be “great” if staff transfers alone could reduce the airline’s headcount enough so as to avoid redundancies. The finance and business site, notes that laying off employees could prove painful in a country that already suffers from a staggeringly high unemployment rate of 27%.
South African Airlines has been reassessing its business model over the last few months and will ditch a number of international routes as part of its strategy review. Along with Emirates, the airline has also been in talks with Turkish Airlines over transferring excess pilots.
“The point is that we’re talking to everybody about collaboration,” Jarana has said about the airline’s plans.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.