Flight Centre stops selling SAA plane tickets with immediate effect
As of midday on Thursday, leading travel retailer Flight Centre stopped selling packages or airline tickets on SAA.
It is another blow to the national carrier, which only just came back online after a weeklong strike.
Flight Centre Travel Group MD for the Middle East and Africa Andrew Stark told TimesLIVE that the decision came because of the risks associated with SAA at the moment.
He said the “final straw which broke the camel's back” was news on Wednesday that the company's preferred travel insurer Travel Insurance Consultant (TIC) decided that it would not cover passengers using SAA should flights be grounded.
He added that “mixed signals” from government over an SAA bailout also contributed to the uncertainty over the airline's future — and, ultimately, to Flight Centre's risk. The risks were especially high for customers heading into the peak December travel season, where if things went wrong it would be “catastrophic”.
“Done our numbers and said put a stop-sale in place,” he said.
“It's indefinite [and took] immediate effect from midday today [Thursday]. Should the financial position of SAA change, and we feel there is no longer a financial risk to ourselves and our customers, we will remove the stop-sale,” Stark said.
Already, all SAA content has been pulled from the Flight Centre website.
“We have consulted with every passenger booked on SAA. They have a choice right now. If they took travel insurance [with TIC] before last night midnight, they will be covered. If not, they will have to look at their own insurance policies they might have. They can cancel their tickets, put in for a refund and look at an alternative carrier,” he said.
Those who wished to stay on SAA could do so, but risk not being covered should the flight not happen.
Stark said the response was “very muted and shocked” when the company informed SAA of its decision.
“But they completely understood where we were coming from. It's a very very sad state of affairs. The reality is that it's business, and we have to take the emotional side of it,” he said.
Attempts to contact SAA on Thursday night were unsuccessful.