South African Airways is projecting a loss of R3.5bn for fiscal 2016-17 - more than double that of the previous financial year. Picture: SUPPLIED
South African Airways is projecting a loss of R3.5bn for fiscal 2016-17 - more than double that of the previous financial year. Picture: SUPPLIED

Ailing state-owned airline SAA will be providing repatriation charter flights to various international destinations following the amendment to the Covid-19 travel restrictions.

The first of these chartered flights will be for the repatriation of German citizens to their home country, SAA business rescue practitioners Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana said on Thursday.

There will be two flights leaving from Johannesburg to Munich, and Cape Town to Frankfurt on Friday.

The business rescue practitioners said negotiations are ongoing with other governments for the repatriation of their citizens.

SAA, one of several state-owned enterprises brought to its knees due to mismanagement by state capture, entered business rescue in 2019 after several years of operational losses and government bailouts that have weakened SA’s fiscal position.

In a bid to cut costs, the business rescue practitioners cut a number of international, regional and domestic flights from SAA's schedule. They also started the structuring process, which would see a number of job losses at the airline.

The practitioners have also asked for three extensions to finalise the rescue plan for the airline.

After the announcement of the 21-day national lockdown by President Cyril Ramaphosa the airline had to stop all operations as travel was prohibited.

However, on Tuesday, transport minister Fikile Mbalula announced amendments to aviation directives, now allowing citizens and permanent residents stuck overseas to return home and for foreign nationals stuck in SA to be repatriated during the lockdown.

The repatriation of foreign nationals from SA will be at the expense of the respective governments.

The first repatriation flight permitted after the amendment left for Sao Paulo, Brazil on Wednesday with 321 passengers on a LATAM airline flight.

The business rescue practitioners said on Thursday the airline would operate the charter service subject to health and safety provisions contained in the lockdown regulations.

They said the flights were for passengers who could not be accommodated as a consequence of the immediate lockdown.

Individuals who have tested positive for Covid-19 will not be allowed on any of these flights, and all passengers will be subjected to screening protocols before departure as required by the SA authorities and SAA’s policies.

Any passengers that presents flu-like symptoms will not be allowed on any of these flights, the practitioners said.

“In these difficult times, SAA is committed to collaborating with all its partners and stakeholders in the fight against Covid-19. The airline will ensure the necessary transfer of passengers and essential cargo takes place in a safe and compliant manner for all during these flights,” they said.

The practitioners thanked all SAA employees who had been asked to undertake the task to prepare and service those flights.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za