Business rescue practitioners (BRPs) for South African Airways (SAA) say the airline will not resume domestic flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town next month, adding that the statement suggesting otherwise was released in violation of the business rescue practitioners’ protocols.
On Tuesday a statement released by the airline’s communications department quoted the chief commercial operator Philip Saunders as saying the airline was “looking forward to welcoming and serving [its] customers once again” when SAA resumes domestic flights in mid-June.
The announcement came on the back of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Sunday night briefing where he said domestic air travel for business purposes will be permitted when the country moves to alert Level 3 of lockdown in June.
“The flysaa statement was released in violation of the BRPs communications protocol which was put in place so that unvetted releases are not issued,” said BRPs Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana in a statement.
“The position around the cessation of flights remains as is until SAA has a better sense of what the Level 3 lockdown means in terms of domestic air travel.”
Matuson and Dongwana said SAA would also need to consider the commercial viability and demand for these flights and that the availability of future funding was a “key variable in all of the above considerations”.
The BRPs were appointed in December 2019 to oversee and supervise the management, affairs and business of the company while working on a plan to restructure the airline.
Over five months since the process started the BRPs have not published a final plan and have depleted the R5.5 billion provided in post-commencement funding with the government refusing to extend any more money.
When the country instituted a nationwide lockdown as a response to the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic the airline was forced to ground its flights as restrictions were placed on international and domestic air travel.
“It is unfortunate that the unvetted press statement created an unfair expectation on our relevant stakeholders, including SAA’s customers as well as employees, who are on unpaid absence as a result of the travel ban which led to the halting of the company’s operations and compounded its financial distress,” said Matuson and Dongwana.
“The BRPs focus is on the publication of the business rescue plan as outlined in the Scopa update on 15 May.”