South African Airways may restart flights this summer if it can reach a deal with its pilots. But even if flights resume, will travelers be there to fill them?
South African Airways (SAA) aims to resume flights in July or August, but the restart date will depend on how the Covid-19 pandemic progresses and whether the airline can resolve a pilot dispute, its chief executive said on Friday.
State-owned SAA, which was put into administration in December 2019, has not flown commercially since September, when its administrators mothballed all operations pending funding for a restructuring.
The airline exited administration in late April after receiving 7.8 billion rand ($550 million) from the government, but at the time it did not say when it would take to the skies again.
“As a draft or as a proposal we are looking at July-August 2021,” SAA’s Chief Executive Thomas Kgokolo said during a presentation to a parliamentary committee.
“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 added.
Kgokolo said SAA would meet again with its pilots on Friday to try to find a solution to a disagreement over outstanding salaries and layoff terms.
The airline has been trying to reach a settlement with the pilots for months.
SAA is one of a handful of South African state companies reliant on government bailouts, placing the country’s budget under strain at a time of rapidly rising debt.
(Reporting by Alexander Winning. Editing by Jane Merriman)
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Photo credit: SAA could restart flights this summer if it reaches a deal with its pilots. Anna Zvereva / Flickr