Mango Airlines, the low cost arm of state-owned South African Airways, was cleared to resume flying after resolving a dispute with the country’s airports operator over non-payment of fees.
The carrier agreed with Airports Company South Africa to make a part-payment on what it owes and commit to ways to settle the remaining debt, according to a statement from ACSA on Wednesday. All Mango flights had been suspended earlier after it was blocked from using the nation’s airports, including the main hubs of Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The grounding, while brief, was an indication of the deteriorating financial position at Mango, which has been hit by the coronavirus crisis that’s hammered the airline industry worldwide. South Africa’s government temporarily suspended air travel last year to contain the pandemic, starving Mango of revenue.
Mango was considering a halt to operations from May 1 to go into business rescue while awaiting government funding, Business Day reported earlier this week. SAA was awarded a 10.5 billion rand ($735 million) bailout in October, while a lengthy search for private investors in the carrier continues to prove fruitless.
SAA has been working through a laborious business-rescue process that started in late 2019, and has yet to resume commercial flights after more than a year. The carrier’s recovery has been hampered by South Africa’s isolation from much of the world due to travel bans, which have made it all but impossible to operate a viable large-scale international schedule.
Comair Ltd, one of Mango’s two main domestic rivals, was put into a local form of bankruptcy protection in May last year before resuming flights with support from lenders and investors. The company operates the Kulula brand and is the local partner for IAG SA’s British Airways.
Other rivals to Mango include FlySafair, which has previously indicated an interest in buying Mango, and smaller airlines SA Airlink and CemAir.