Mango dodges lessors’ threat to ground 14 aircraft

01 May 2021 - 16:56
By wendy knowler AND Wendy Knowler
Embattled state-owned Mango Airlines dodged two bullets this week. File photo.
Image: REUTERS/Rogan Ward Embattled state-owned Mango Airlines dodged two bullets this week. File photo.

Embattled state-owned Mango Airlines dodged two bullets this week — first the grounding Acsa imposed on Wednesday before withdrawing it and then its lessors’ threat to ground 14 aircraft from Saturday unless they were paid.

Mango’s communications head Benediction Zubane said on Saturday the airline “continues to operate as normal from today and beyond”.

That applies to all routes except the Johannesburg to Zanzibar one “which is under review”, he said.

The extent of the SAA subsidiary’s woes were revealed in a memo acting CEO William Ndlovu sent to staff on April 22.

In it he said operations would temporarily stop from May 1 “until such time we receive funding [to pay creditors, including aircraft lessors] or complete the business rescue process, should it be supported by the department of public enterprises (DPE)”.

The DPE had promised Mango a cash bailout by October last year, then postponed it to the end of April, only to push that out until June.

The aircraft lessors had given Mango an ultimatum that should they not receive their money by the end of April “then all their aircraft must be grounded until such time that Mango receives the funds and can pay”, Ndlovu said in the memo.

“This means that Mango will not be able to operate from May 1, 2021 due to no aircraft being available for operations.”

Whatever happened to get the lessors to do an about-turn on their grounding threat, Mango is not saying for now.

Asked when the airline stopped taking bookings for post-April departures, Zubane said that happened on April 15, a week before Ndlovu sent the memo about operations possibly being suspended from May 1.

Mango’s survival depends on passenger bookings, but the airline has been widely criticised for its failure to communicate appropriately during this chaotic week, particularly regarding the “reaccommodation” of passengers affected by Wednesday’s unexpected grounding and the continued suspension of the Zanzibar route.