SAA strike leaves national carrier - and honeymoon couple - grounded
SA Airways (SAA) check-in counters at major airports were deserted as around 3,000 staff members embarked on a strike on Friday that saw domestic, regional and international flights grounded by the embattled airline.
Workers affiliated to the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) - who are demanding an 8% wage hike - downed tools at 4am.
The unions represent about 3,000 of the 5,000 strong workforce.
Most travellers seemed to have received the message that flights had been cancelled at Cape Town International Airport.
But honeymooners Peter and Michelle Meier were caught unprepared.
The Swiss couple said they had woken at 3am to be on time for their 6am flight to Johannesburg, where they were due to catch a connecting flight to Mauritius.
“We had no information at all that there’s a strike. Usually I think you’re supposed to see it on TV,” said Peter.
“We’ve been very busy the last few days in Cape Town.
"When we came here every office was closed. There were no people at the desk and we could not find our flight anywhere, not even on the dashboard. It did not say it was cancelled so we didn’t know what to do.”
Their efforts to get onto other flights were fruitless.
“Everything is full,” said Michelle.
SAA announced earlier in the week that more than 900 staff could be affected by restructuring due to its precarious financial position.
Acting CEO Zuks Ramasia said in a statement that the strike could “exacerbate rather than ameliorate our problem, and will result in a set of circumstances from which there may well be no recovery.
"In the best interest of protecting our customers and their travel plans, we have taken the decision to cancel all domestic, regional, and international flights," SAA said on Thursday.
@SAA claims that it must retrench 944 workers to save R700 million. And yet it's spends R25 billion per annum on procurement. Many of its contracts are dodgy deals and it is refusing to act against looters and thieves in management and the board.#SAAStrike#SAATstrike pic.twitter.com/XX7Bd6Q198— NUMSA (@Numsa_Media) November 15, 2019
The flight cancellations only affect flights operated by SAA.
Flights operated by other airlines such as Mango, SA Express and Airlink were not expected to be affected.
This is a developing story.