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SAA continues repatriations and cargo flights despite uncertain future

08 May 2020 - 13:38 By Genevieve Quintal
SAA will continue to provide repatriation flights for stranded citizens. File photo.
SAA will continue to provide repatriation flights for stranded citizens. File photo.
Image: Ben Stansall/AFP

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

SAA said on Friday 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, reports BusinessLIVE.

The SAA business rescue practitioners, Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, have said without further funding from government, which they are not getting, it has only 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 “there would be no fire sale of assets and no move towards liquidation”.

On Friday SAA said it will honour all existing commitments to provide air transportation services to its customers and any other requests 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 in returning SA citizens stuck in other countries.

SAA said it continues to receive and operationalise requests from  foreign governments which still have 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 America, 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-operationregarding other destinations where SA citizens may be stranded,” said SAA interim executive chair Thandeka Mgoduso.

“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 since April 3, it had transported more than 9,100 passengers to six continents and more than 870 tons 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.