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SAA meltdown: A timeline of how things got to where they are now

A SAA Airbus A320, shortly after takeoff.
A SAA Airbus A320, shortly after takeoff.
Image: SAA

On Wednesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa ordered the national carrier to be placed in urgent business rescue, again thrusting the national airline into the spotlight.

Here is a timeline of how SAA got here:

Strike and grounded flights 

Earlier last month, the embattled airline saw immense damage to its reputation, operations, and finances when Trade unions, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) announced they would ground SAA flights, to oppose possible job cuts.

This after an announcement by the airline that about 1,000 employees could be affected by a restructuring process.

More strikes 

Another union, the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) threatened to take SAA to the labour court to oppose the looming retrenchments and force it to comply with section 189 of the Labour Relations Act.

According to the union spokesperson Zanele Sabela, SAA, at the time of the planned retrenchment, had not consulted with the union and was in breach of the act.

No money for SAA

As the strike continued, minister of public enterprises Pravin Gordhan said while two unions at SAA were demanding salary increases, the government would not give SAA another bailout.

During a briefing in parliament, Gordhan warned that the airline might not be able to pay salaries at the end of the month.

Tito Mboweni chimes in 

At the height of the financial difficulties, finance minister Mboweni said it would be better to close down SAA and start a new airline.

He said it was unlikely that the matter would be sorted out, adding that closing down SAA would be better than continuing efforts to turn it around.

Travel group pulls out 

Travel group Flight Centre SA stopped selling SAA tickets due to ongoing concerns about the airline.

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.

He said the “mixed signals” from the government regarding an SAA bailout also contributed to the uncertainty over the airline's future and, ultimately, to the travel group's risk.

A bailout but not really a “bailout” 

While currently in a business rescue plan, Gordhan announced on Thursday that SAA would get R2bn from the government and the business rescue process will start from Thursday.

According to the public enterprises minister, the cash injection was not a bailout but rather a “provision of financial assistance to facilitate a radical restructure of the airline”.

Gordhan believes that it would help to “restructure and reposition the entity into one that is stronger, more sustainable and able to grow and attract an equity partner”.


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