Neels Blom Writer at large
Some payments have been made towards defraying the debt, says SAA. Picture: BUSINESS DAY
Some payments have been made towards defraying the debt, says SAA. Picture: BUSINESS DAY

State-owned South African Airways (SAA) may be a step closer to recovering a debt of about R1.5bn from Angola for ticket sales following talks between the International Air Travel Association (Iata) and the Angolan central bank and finance and transport ministries.

SAA and TAAG Angola Airlines signed a code-share agreement earlier in January on their direct flights between Johannesburg and Luanda and Cape Town and Luanda, despite the long-overdue debt.

SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali said at the time that the repatriation of funds from Angola had nothing to do with SAA’s commercial decision because the airline saw value in expanding its relationship with TAAG.

On Thursday, Tlali said some payments had been made towards defraying the debt.

The Angolan authorities asked the Iata delegation to propose a plan for the repatriation of SAA’s and other airlines’ blocked funds, an Iata spokesman said.

A similar intervention by Iata with Nigeria in 2016 had succeeded, the spokesman said.

The matter has become urgent because of the devaluations of the kwanza, which has diminished the real value of the withheld funds. Iata was asking for an agreed fixed exchange rate, the spokesman said.

Iata said it expected Angola’s air transport market to treble to 7.1-million passengers a year by 2036 at an annual growth rate of 6.7%. Greater growth and associated socioeconomic benefits could be achieved if the country opened up its market and prioritised participation in continent-wide connectivity efforts, unblocked funds, consulted with industry to improve infrastructure and maintained the highest safety standards, it said.