Embattled national carrier South African Airways aims to resume flights in July or August 2021, with the exact restart date dependent on lockdown restrictions, Reuters reported.
The resumption of services will also be dependent on whether the airline can resolve a pilot dispute, said chief executive Thomas Kgokolo in a briefing to parliament.
“As a draft or as a proposal we are looking at July-August 2021.
“However these dates come with some complexities, the issue of the Covid-19 is something that we still need to consider … and there is a complex matter that we are dealing with of pilots as well,” he said.
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.
The airline exited administration in late April after receiving R7.8 billion from the government,< However, until now it has not committed to a firm date to recommence operations.
Speaking in an interview with the SABC at the end of April, 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.