“We opted for the emergency landing rather than the fiery crash that SAA was headed for,” explained Connie Mulder, a spokesperson for the South African Solidarity trade union after South African Airways announced plans on Thursday to slash its route network as part of a major restructuring. The plans will see SAA retrench from a number of key destinations both internationally and in its domestic market.
“The alternative was a straight-up liquidation – and liquidation would be all 11,000 workers losing their jobs and it could have catastrophic implications for the South African fiscus,” Mulder cautioned.
On Thursday, South African Airways said it would nix international services from Johannesburg to Abidjan via Accra, Entebbe, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Luanda, Munich, Ndola, and Sao Paulo.
While on its domestic network, the airline would only continue to serve Cape Town but in a reduced capacity. Other domestic services to Durban, East London and Port Elizabeth will terminate from February 29. Those destinations will, however, continue to be served by SAA’s low-cost subsidiary Mango.
Flagship international services from Johannesburg to Frankfurt, London Heathrow, New York, Perth and Washington via Accra will continue to operate as normal.
The move, proposed by SAA’s independent Business Rescue Practitioners, aims to not only conserve cash but also “create a viable platform for a successful future”. SAA was placed into voluntary Business Rescue to avoid going bankrupt and to secure a four billion Rand bailout from the South African government.
The business rescue practitioners said they were doing everything possible to limit job losses at the airline without indicating how many redundancies were on the cards.
The powerful Numsa union and the South African Cabin Crew Association, however, reacted with fury to the plans and have threatened to take the airline to court in a bid to remove the appointed business rescue practitioners.
Both unions staged strike action late last year to block plans for mass redundancies as part of a cost-cutting drive at the heavily indebted carrier.
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.