On 15 May, the South African government requested a business plan for South African Airways within 25 days. Plans to rescue the airline have been ongoing since late 2019 and, even allowing for the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, the government has not been satisfied with progress.
The standing committee on public accounts has asked for a full business plan for South African Airways from its rescue practitioners and advisers and wanted this delivered within 25 days from 15 May, along with a full schedule of fees.
The committee is frustrated at delays in the rescue plan, rising costs, and a lack of interaction with rescue practitioners. Committee chairman Mkhuleko Hlengwa said, “The more they provide answers, the more questions arise. It is a case of classical musical chairs. It’s what has characterised the operation over the past five months. It’s what has landed us with a rand 10 billion bill.”
Despite the restructuring underway, the South African government was proving resistant to any sale of assets or talk of liquidation. This was despite them declining to continue funding the national carrier.
However it now appears the South African government may have reversed its April stance of no more funding. Flight Global has reported that $212 million has been set aside for South African Airways this financial year. A further $9 million has been set aside for offshoot SA Express. The South African financial year runs from 1 March to the end of February.
Deputy director-general of the Department of Public Enterprises, Kgathatso Tlhakudi, quoted this amount when appearing before the parliamentary portfolio committee on public enterprises on Wednesday.
It must however be noted that these funds are provisional and may be a promise the government cannot uphold.
In other airline news:
- United Airlines announced the launch of United CleanPlus, a new standard in cleanliness and safety throughout the company. As part of the initiative, the Chicago-based carrier is collaborating with disinfectant specialist Clorox and some of the United States’ top medical experts at Cleveland Clinic.
- Turkish Airlines announced that it has further suspended flights. Domestic flights are scheduled to resume on 4 June, while international flights will not take off until 10 June.
- Azul Linhas Aereas is increasing its schedule in June to 168 flights per day. In April, the Brazilian carrier had 70 flights per day and in May is operating 115 daily departures.
- JetBlue has released further guidance on its plans on 20 May. Top among these is a commitment to guarantee social distancing on its flights. Adjacent seats to passengers will be blocked on all flights until 6 July.
- Finnair has announced that it will begin talks with employees over potential long-term layoffs. The airline has said it expects it will not be operating at full capacity before the end of this year and that it will have to reflect this in its workforce. Talks are due to begin on 25 May.
- Smartwings, the Czech low-cost airline, and owner of flag carrier Czech Airlines, announced this week that it does not want to be taken over by the Czech Republic as a way of being supported through the COVID-19 crisis, seeking state backed guarantees instead.
- Qatar Airways is returning four A350 aircraft leased from Latin American carrier LATAM. The homecoming operation is reportedly well underway, with the four aircraft pretty much traveling in convoy across the Atlantic. They are expected to arrive between 5:30am and 7:00am at Confins Airport in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on Thursday.
- LOT Polish Airlines has announced that domestic flights will resume on 1 June. The Polish carrier initially suspended flights for two weeks from 15 March as a result of a government lockdown.
- New Zealand’s national flag carrier, Air New Zealand, has told over 1,300 of its cabin crew that they will lose their jobs. The announcement was made today by the organisation representing the flight attendants union E tū. It follows on from Air New Zealand saying back in March that it would cut staffing levels by 30 per cent.