Shock­ing ser­vice on SAA

Financial Mail - - YOU SAID... - AL Nor­man How­ick

Here are the sad facts about a South African, res­i­dent in New Zealand, vis­it­ing his fam­ily in SA, trav­el­ling on SAA.

First, it be­came a la­bo­ri­ous process for the vis­i­tor to re­new his SA pass­port, so he opted to ob­tain a travel visa on his New Zealand pass­port. To do so, he had to for­feit a day’s pro­fes­sional in­come to travel to Auck­land and be in­ter­viewed at the ap­pointed time, and lodge the vol­umes of doc­u­men­ta­tion re­quired. The to­tal cost, in­clud­ing lost in­come, visa fees (R1,900) and trav­el­ling ex­penses prob­a­bly ex­ceeded the equiv­a­lent of R10,000.

But the most pun­ish­ing part was still to come: a flight on SAA from Perth to Jo­han­nes­burg. First, the com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem failed — so the cabin crew had to read out the safety rules.

Then the in-flight en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem kept fail­ing. When cabin staff were in­formed, they said they needed to re­boot the sys­tem; noth­ing hap­pened. Be­cause the sys­tem was down, no al­ter­na­tive mu­si­cal en­ter­tain­ment was avail­able. Many hours of noth­ing­ness re­sulted.

Per­haps, if the food had been ed­i­ble, the en­ter­tain­ment-sys­tem col­lapse would have been for­got­ten. Break­fast was a leath­ery omelette that ap­peared to have been made with egg pow­der, vi­enna sausages that had been boiled so long they had turned grey and, to top it all, baked beans. The food in SA pris­ons is prob­a­bly bet­ter.

How can SAA ever ex­pect to be­come a suc­cess­ful in­ter­na­tional air­line when it dishes up the above? Does man­age­ment not know that good en­ter­tain­ment and rea­son­able food are ne­ces­si­ties on long-haul flights? These surely must be the eas­i­est of prob­lems to sort out.

Tax­pay­ers are be­ing asked to cough up R21bn for more of this un­til 2021. For more than 20 years we have been promised turn­around strate­gies.

The board and man­age­ment of SAA will no doubt con­tinue to see blue skies ahead and earn an­nual salary in­creases and per­for­mance bonuses while prospec­tive pas­sen­gers rapidly dis­ap­pear to other, more at­trac­tive air­lines. When will we learn?

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