Embattled South African Airways has started talks with lenders to secure the funds to radically restructure the state airline, the country’s Ministry of State Enterprises said on Sunday.
A week-long strike starting on November 15 paralysed South African Airways’ fleet, causing “immense damage to the reputation, operations and…finances of SAA,” the minister of public enterprises Pravin Gordhan said in a statement.
The state-owned carrier failed to pay thousands of staff in full last month and insists that it has almost no funds left.
“SAA, therefore cannot continue in its current form. The airline group will now undergo a radical restructuring process which will ensure its financial and operational sustainability,” Gordhan said.
“There is no other way forward,” he added.
The airline inched closer to collapse on Friday as international travel agency Flight Centre stopped selling SAA flight tickets after an insurer refused to provide insolvency coverage for the trips.
After failing to turn a profit since 2011, the airline has relied on state bailouts to survive. But until Sunday’s statement, finance minister Tito Mboweni had refused to give the bloated airline any more bailouts.
Aly-Khan Satchu, the CEO of Nairobi
“Even though he blinked first, it was at the very last moment.
“I believe Tito Mboweni is seeking to draw a red line and also make the point that SOE mismanagement has to end. It’s a game of brinkmanship.”
Two of South Africa’s biggest unions called the strike in November over the company’s plans to restructure the airline by axing 20% of its staff. The airline had warned it may not recover from the stoppage, which saw the cancellation of thousands of regional and international flights, and cost the airline an estimated $3.36 million a day.
Flights resumed after unions agreed to a 5.8% wage hike starting from Feb. 2020.