New Airlink-SAA commercial deal signed Nine SAA wide-body aircraft are up for sale
AFRICA’S largest privately-owned airline, Airlink, announced yesterday that it had replaced its franchise agreement with troubled SAA with a new commercial deal as it seeks to fortify its business.
This is amidst speculation that the state-owned airline is facing imminent liquidation in the absence of the promised Treasury funding to keep its operations going.
Airlink will operate under its own “4Z” flight code on services operated as from June 11. Currently Airlink uses SAA’s code “SA8”, but it will change to “4Z” in June.
Rodger Foster, a chief executive and managing director at Airlink, said: “While we intend working with SAA’s business rescue practitioners to find a solution that enables SAA to continue playing its important role in the Southern African market, we have a responsibility to take action to preserve Airlink’s viability as a financially-robust, independent and privately-owned airline.
“However, should SAA’s circumstance worsen, then Airlink will activate the transition sooner, immediately, if necessary.”
Foster said Airlink planned to propagate its business and take advantage of new market opportunities.
“At the same time, we will be able to strengthen our vital partnership with SAA,” Foster said.
Airlink said customers holding SAA 083 tickets for flights after June 10 and who did not want to be re-accommodated, could apply to SAA for a refund or through other channels, such as the credit card issuer used for payment or insurance and SAA refunds would be managed in line with its business rescue policies.
SAA was expecting to hear from the government this weekend when R2 billion is expected to be paid to keep operations going. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said yesterday that the National Treasury was still trying to find additional funding for SAA.
Yesterday, Louise Brugman, a spokesperson for business-rescue practitioners Les Matuson, said that the government continued to indicate support for the business-rescue process and “together we were considering various scenarios to keep the entity operational”, according to Bloomberg.
“We remain hopeful that a mechanism can be found to unlock the liquidity constraints,” Brugman said.
Meanwhile the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union has lashed out at the government after the Treasury failed to provide R2bn in funding to save SAA.
The union said the government never intended to save SAA in the first place after it was placed under business rescue last month.
“SAA has now put up nine of its aircraft for sale. Eight fly regularly to major destinations around the world. Judging by its actions, the government never intended to save SAA. In an economy where the unemployment rate is the highest it has been in 11 years, the government is gambling with 10 000 SAA jobs,” the union said.
SAA HAS put some of its aircraft up for sale to accommodate the new Airbus A350-900s the airline recently added to its fleet.
In a tender on the airline’s website, SAA said it was selling nine widebody aircraft – five Airbus A340-300s and four Airbus A340-600s – and 15 spare engines and four Auxiliary Power Units, a device used to provide energy.
Experts said that bought new, the aircraft and high value spare parts would be valued at more than R37 billion.
“After we received the four new Airbus A350-900s, it has become necessary for us to sell our older models to accommodate the new models with superior features, such as the quieter cabin, relaxing in-flight environment and more extra-legroom seats in economy class and lie-flat beds in business class,” said Zuks Ramasia, SAA’s acting chief executive.
The airline insisted that the decision to sell the aircraft had nothing to do with the business rescue process.
“For some time we had planned to replace our four-engined aircraft with the two-engined ones,” said Ramasia.
The actual turn-around time of the sale will depend largely on hours flown and a wide range of other factors, including the state of the global economy.
AN AIRLINK plane is parked on the OR Tambo International Airport tarmac. |