SAA plans to be back in the skies before the end of the year
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SAA chief executive Thomas Kgokolo says the sale of the airline to a private equity partner will not restrict plans to ensure that its flights are back in the skies before the end of the year.
Kgokolo said the company’s return to the skies had been held up by a number of issues, including a labour dispute with the pilots. He said the matter had been settled and some pilots were preparing to start flying again.
The Star understands that about 200 pilots took voluntary severance packages. The pilots had been without salaries for a number of months. Kgokolo confirmed that 80 pilots would be part of the relaunch.
“There was the issue of us settling with the pilots, and we did indicate that we would be observant of the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. We have strategised and consulted within the business and we are doing the final touch-ups in terms of communicating a feasible date, and some of it will depend again on how lockdown restrictions go,” Kgokolo said.
He added that in the meantime the airline had been working on ensuring that it provided the best service when it returned, as well as going through some administrative work to ensure compliance with aviation guidelines and laws.
“We have sent all the documents to the regulator. We are waiting for the regulator to look at our portfolio of evidence. And our expectation is that, if it all goes well, they will then finalise this week and confirm our readiness to operate,” Kgokolo said.
“I plan on starting the cargo operations in August so that we can build momentum for a start date on which passengers can start coming on board.”
SAA will soon be majority-owned by the Takatso Consortium, which comprises Joburg-based Global Airways – which owns recently launched domestic airline Lift – and private equity firm Harith General Partners.
It has pledged to invest more than R3.5 billion in SAA over the next three years as a majority, black-owned shareholder.
Kgokolo said the planned sale would not affect the plans to relaunch.
“We have working capital to get us flying for a particular period of time until we need that cash injection, so we are not depending on the strategic equity partner deal to be signed for us to start flying.
“What we had to do was that, as part of due diligence, we have had to align the conversation so that they can understand what we are doing, so once we get the go-ahead we will then restart flying,and when the due diligence process comes to a conclusion it will then fund us going forward,” Kgokolo said.