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SAA tries to replace locked-out pilots with outsiders

Airline is in a rush to fly charter flights for government and unlikely to be granted emergency exemptions a second time.
The airline has withdrawn the emergency request that would put it in breach of the Labour Relations Act. Image: Shutterstock

South African Airways (SAA) is in urgent need of pilots.

More specifically, it needs specialised pilot instructors to train its slimmed-down pilot contingent to enable those pilots to requalify for line operations in terms of the relevant technical and safety standards.

SAA’s own specialised pilot instructors are among the pilots who have been locked out of the airline since December.


The airline’s emergency training procurement request appears to have been issued on Monday (March 8).

The document calls for replies “by latest tomorrow (Tuesday 09 March 2021)”. However, it also requests recipients to confirm their availability for “the weekend of 06 March 2021”.

Procurement request withdrawn

The attempt to outsource training for flight-deck crew has however been withdrawn as it would violate Section 76 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA), which restricts employers from replacing employees during periods of a protected strike or lockout. 

The withdrawal follows correspondence from lawyers representing the SAA Pilots’ Association (Saapa) sent on Tuesday (March 9) to the airline’s business rescue practitioners (BRPs) Siviwe Dongwana and Les Matuson. Saapa’s lawyers explained that the move by the airline to procure external services is in breach of the LRA. 

On Wednesday (March 10), the rescue practitioners notified Saapa in an email which Moneyweb has seen that SAA and its BRPs had withdrawn the procurement request “and that no contract has been concluded in terms of that procurement request”.

However, according to Dongwana and Matuson, the withdrawal does not mean the rescue practitioners admit that the procurement of external pilot services would constitute a breach of the LRA. 


“They are desperate now as they have locked out [the] pilots they need to do certain training,” says Saapa chair Grant Back. 

In its procurement request document sent to various service providers, SAA explains that it is in urgent need of required pilot training from external Aviation Training Organisations (ATO) for Crew Resource Management (CRM), Safety Management Systems (SMS) and Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) courses. The training would be provided to 15 pilots (seven first officers and eight captains), according to the document. 

This training is essential in ensuring that flight crew maintain proficiency in handling airplane operations.

“SAA does not currently have access to any specialised pilot instructors to conduct CRM, SMS and UPRT training, which is required to be completed by all pilots towards requalification for line operations in terms of the SACCA [South African Civil Aviation Authority] Regulations (CARs) and [Civil Aviation] Technical Standards (CATS),” SAA said. 

The training facilities would be provided by SAA.

The costs of the training would be provided by the cash-strapped airline, according to its rescue practitioners’ spokesperson Louise Brugman. 

Saapa members have been locked out of the airline since December, pending the cancellation of the contentious Regulatory Agreement. They have also not received a salary since March last year, when the airline ceased commercial operations.


Earlier this month, the Labour Court dismissed Saapa’s application to have the lockout declared unlawful.

Brugman said the lockout will be lifted once Saapa agrees to terminate the Regulatory Agreement which “is necessary for the long-term sustainability of a restructured airline”.

Vaccine collection

Moneyweb understands that SAA’s urgent need to train pilots relates to an SAA flight that is scheduled to fetch another batch of Covid-19 vaccines from Belgium later this month.

The airline previously fetched 80 000 Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines from Brussels in February. 

Read: SA launches Covid-19 vaccination programme with J&J shots

According to people familiar with the matter, the flight crew who conducted the flight that fetched the vaccines in February received emergency exemptions for training and were able to operate the aircraft.

The Department of Public Enterprises was unable to respond to queries at the time of publication. This article will be updated once a response is received.

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Gather a few taxi drivers, I’m sure they can do the job.

I recall that interview on Carte Blanche vividly where the SATA chairman specifically stated that airline Pilots are simply overly qualified Taxi Drivers and do not require any special treatment!!!
Really – so round up some idle taxi drivers and hand the R1bn Airbus A380 over to them to do the basic pre-flight checks.

And on the flight from Jhb to Cpt they will stop at Kroonstad Bloemfontein and at least 3 other places to pick up more passengers and will still arrive in Cpt before the other airlines.

This horse is dead. Pravin is on record as saying no more funding just to back track again ANC style!

Trying to get what was back in the day a proud Parastatal, the best in Africa, now bankrupt , is like trying to open a restaurant in the middle lane of the N1 between Jhb & Pta

Who’s going to risk their life eating there? Similarly, if Sipho the taxi driver wants to fly the plane empty, let him..The ANC will just buy another one when he nose dives out of the air into the ground

No problem, they’re experts at fleecing the tax payers money

SAA and BRP in breach of international standards for aviation safety. nobody will fly with any SAA aircraft unless piloted and captained by experienced and qualified /certified licenced pilots. period.

when i just read the term “rescue practitioners” my blood boils, especially when it comes to a bankrupt soe like saa that has not a chance in hell to be “saved” – an entity that just kicked the core employees (pilots) of it’s business in the face, now actually need their services again


How naive must one be to believe saa can operate at a break even or profit ever again???

ANC Govt just don’t get it and never will.

They get it… They just don’t want to lose their easy pickings.

Another BEE programme that wont fly – pun intended.
I havent flown SAA for 15 years, and this wont change.

U will never see me in a saa seat. I fly other airlines – even when the cost is more.
Screw them.

This is a most disturbing news story, not only because of the pilot problem but mainly because we’ve only received 80 000 vaccines with no srategy in sight for a solution to vaccinating the country. Without vaccinations, no one from SA will be flying anywhere anytime soon! What a balls up!


Fear not Mac

Many many ppl willing to pass on the vaccine and rather donate to you instead !

@Reality: Problem is even those willing to pass on their vaccine do not have anything to pass on.

@Paining wrote:” Problem is even those willing to pass on their vaccine do not have anything to pass on.”

Great, no problem then.

Urgent, desparate…yeah, let’s rush this!!

Charter flights for government? So, they are going to use massive, expensive aircraft to carry a few politicians and their families on holiday. Government paying an SOE. Taxpayer money shifted from one state institution to another. That is not business, that is waste!

SAA dug their own grave. Perhaps they should stop digging it deeper.

Personally I hope they keep digging until they reach Australia. That way I can walk there to visit my grandchildren instead of having to fly!

LOL. Just that it will still be long way to Perth (to the tune of Long Way to Tipperary)

Well done to the Moneyweb censors !!!!
You have successfully blocked my comments.
Keep up your excellent work !!!!!

Moneyweb’s woke cancel culture “lest we offend” is the 21st century equivalent of book burning.

Agree my comment re the vaccine flight also blocked.

Or spill the truth.

Or Elvis seven single records smashing?

Agree my comment re the vaccine flight also blocked.

Yup, unfortunately they will block anything that doesn’t fit the mainstream narrative.

In the Empire of Lies, truth is treason !

The cheapest way to do this would be to use DHL and it would save the country a bundle. Why? Because using SAA does not make commercial sense. Tito, put and end to this lunacy; we aint got the money …

A single flight flies to Europe, empty, to go and fetch a few pallets of vaccine. DHL only has a one way flight and that freighter would be loaded both ways.

The last time that the SAA was contracted to do a vaccine run, it cost the taxpayer over R5M. DHL would have done for less than R250K.

Why the fixation with using SAA? a matter of misplaced pride or an attempt to justify its existence.

The BRP’s are a bunch of money suckers. Perhaps they should publish their fess received so far from SAA/ Government. We would all be shocked. How about it Moneyweb? It would make for interesting reading.

Cadre deployment! That is the solution. I can think of any number of members who could take a position in the pilot seat for a one way trip. Perhaps members of the EFF could provider cabin staff.

I don’t want to be prophetic, but the term “crash and burn” comes to mind every time I read of another debacle in the vain attempt to make this a profitable company.

Been trying to understand why “they” will not let SAA go. Yes, jobs for pals, inflated tenders and free flights all figure in the equation, but I think the real reason is concern around reputation. SAA is the oldest commercial airline in the world, it was original created back in the day out of sheer necessity, considering our location from Europe. I think “they” are deeply concerned about the scorn and ridicule they’ll receive from the International pundits, when SAA is eventually taken off life support and allowed to slip away quietly. Its all about saving face and reputation, hence the obsession with keeping the brand alive in 1 form or the other.

Reputation gone alraedy. ANC saw to it

Through what process was SAA contracted to transport the vaccines?
If they do manage to fly, can we kindly request that Pravin and both BRPs join the flight? They don’t have to do anything, just fly with. They will trust the flight personnel mos!

After the AZ over priced and expiring vaccines I would not be surprised if it wasn’t to keep a secret. Pravin the chemist and some chums scooping up “old” vaccines at a discount and selling them to the SA ANC regime.

The airline disaster called SAA is a “Controlled Flight Into Terrain” “, or CFIT in aviation terms. Luthuli House was in full control when this airline stalled and pancaked into bankruptcy. SAA followed by Denel are only the first dominos to fall. Luthuli House is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the bondholders by pretending to “save” the airline with a “business rescue” process.

This process to save SAA is intended to save Luthuli House itself. The bankruptcy of SAA and Denel should have triggered cross-defaults on all SOE bonds already. The business rescue process prevents bondholders from claiming what is due to them from Luthuli House. Luthuli House is buying political time with unaffordable bailouts. The entire socialist conglomerate, including all SOEs and all ANC municipalities, is technically bankrupt. They are operating recklessly. The cross-defaults should have been triggered already, bankrupting the state itself.

This mess will inevitably end up in one of two places, and may even destroy both. Like with Eskom, Luthuli House can ringfence the bad debt of SOEs and municipalities, put it into a special purpose vehicle and put it under the “control” of the GEPF. This option implies that the GEPF accept shares in bankrupt companies in exchange for the bad debt, and end with zero assets.

Alternatively, if the Cosatu members refuse the first option, Luthuli House will keep on pretending that nothing is wrong, and the bad debt will land in the lap of the Governor of the Reserve Bank. The Governor will have no option but to save the banking system that holds the bonds that are already nothing more than worthless electronic entries in a ledger. This option implies that citizens end up with worthless currency.

Either the GEPF absorbs the bad debts, or the liability will be spread evenly between the rest of us. Politics will determine the outcome.

This deck of cards is held together by lies, incompetence and criminality that rests upon a make-belief business rescue process at SAA.

Our “Air force” pilots should be used as we cannot afford to put any airforce planes in the sky ,!!
Saw a submarine at Simonstown today with an outboard motor !!!!!

Ha Ha. Most SAA pilots are ex “Air Force” pilots.

Hope SAA sticks to their BEE requirements in their urgent search for pilots. Good Luck !

What an utter mess & total embarrassment to the country.

I for one will not risk my life flying with SAA! If this is what’s being reported in the media imagine how much other stuff is not well known?

Let it fold and let privately run airlines do their thing.

Judging by the actions of the moderators on sites like these it follows that many stories land up in the bottom drawer never to be reported. Wonder if this comment will make it past them.

High time to replace the government with outsiders.

End of comments.





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