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‘New SAA’ plans to restart operations

South African Airways’ new interim chief executive Thomas Kgokolo says that the embattled national carrier has begun official discussions to resume operations.

In a SABC interview on Monday (19 April), Kgokolo said that the airline will soon start the process of retraining its pilots and ensuring that compliance requirements are met.

SAA has been unprofitable for almost a decade, surviving on state bailouts and government debt guarantees, and was placed under administration a year ago.

The carrier has been lying dormant since March 2020, when the fleet was grounded due to travel bans to contain the Covid-19 coronavirus.

However, Kgokolo said that the business rescue process has now ‘come through’ and identified the key financial and operational challenges for the airline.

He added that a number of expenses have been cut down, including employee costs through retrenchments, meaning that the new airline will be significantly ‘leaner’.

However, Kgokolo acknowledged the difficulties in restarting the airline during a global pandemic which has caused untold damage to the airline sector.

“Our view is that we are much smaller than before, so we are going to be spending a lot of time (as part of) our restart plan looking at operational efficiency from a cost perspective.

“We will also be looking at the type of aircraft we use going forward to ensure that they are fuel-efficient. We will also (launch) a decent marketing campaign to ensure that as we come back online our loyal customers can use us again.

Kgokolo said that this restart will not be easy and that the new SAA will not do things the same way it did in the past.

He said that some of the immediate concerns which the restart plan will address include:

  • Training for pilots who have not been flying for some time;
  • That the airline has the right compliance certificates in place for flying;
  • From a marketing perspective, so that clients know the airline is restarting;
  • That corporate compliance issues are addressed;
  • The filling of vacancies that have been left by executives who left the airline during the business rescue process.
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