An Airbus A320-200 passenger jet, operated by South African Airlines (SAA), flies above a construction site during take-off from O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Picture: WALDO SWIEGERS / BLOOMBERG
An Airbus A320-200 passenger jet, operated by South African Airlines (SAA), flies above a construction site during take-off from O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Picture: WALDO SWIEGERS / BLOOMBERG

Ailing SAA says it has no plans to cease its operations, despite uncertainty over the state-owned airline’s future. 

SAA said on Friday that it would continue to operate repatriation and cargo flights during May — and beyond.

This comes as public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan is set to present an “alternative” plan for the rescue of SAA on Friday, developed with the help of trade unions and a business consultancy that previously worked with the airline.

The SAA business rescue practitioners Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana have said that without further funding from the government, which they are not getting, it only has two options: a structured wind-down or liquidation. A wind-down involves the packaging and sale of assets, in the form of new businesses, where possible.

Employees, who are part of a retrenchment process under the Labour Relations Act, are on unpaid leave as from May 1. 

Earlier this week, Gordhan told MPs that “there would be no fire sale of assets and no move towards liquidation”.

SAA said on Friday that it will honour all existing commitments to provide air transportation services to its customers and any other requests that it receives.

The airline has been involved in the repatriation of foreign nationals who were stuck in the country during the Covid-19 lockdown and returning SA citizens stuck in other countries. SAA said it continues to receive and operationalise requests from various foreign governments which still have their citizens stranded in SA.

There have been several requests for repatriation flights to operate to North, West and East Africa; the UK; the Middle East; South and North America; and the Far East during the course of May that are being considered by the airline.

“We are in ongoing discussions with the departments of public enterprises and international relations and co-operation, regarding other destinations where SA citizens may be stranded,” SAA interim executive chair Thandeka Mgoduso said.

“Furthermore, we are responding proactively in those instances where there is a need for essential humanitarian cargo for our country and for the neighbouring states to be uplifted.”

The airline said that since April 3, it has transported more than 9,100 passengers to six continents and more than 870 tonnes of freight, both export and import consignments, which included essential humanitarian cargo.

It said as long as such requests are received, SAA will endeavour to fulfil them. 

quintalg@businesslive.co.za