South African Airways axes more domestic, international routes

South Africa’s ailing national airline on Thursday announced plans to close almost all its domestic services and some international flights, the latest bid to save cash after a spree of cancellations.

Flag carrier South African Airways (SAA) has failed to make a profit for more than a decade and gets by on government bailouts.

Debt-ridden and strapped for cash, it was placed under a state-approved rescue plan in December following a week-long strike that pushed it to the verge of collapse.

The business administrators have since cancelled more than one hundred flights in an attempt to streamline services and conserve funds.

In their latest announcement, they detailed plans to definitively shut down some of those routes.  

They said in a statement that they “have identified which routes will be retained to drive the restructured national carrier towards profitability”.

The cull targeted mainly domestic routes, with services to almost all South African destinations set to be cut on February 29.

Domestically, only the Cape Town-Johannesburg route will continue to be served on a “reduced basis”.

International flights will also be affected, including links to Abidjan, Hong Kong, Munich and Sao Paulo.

Customers will either be accommodated on other airlines or fully refunded.

Some travel agents have stopped providing cancellation insurance for SAA flights.

South Africa’s government has admitted it is still seeking a solution to finance the airline, which has a fleet of more than 50 planes and employs more than 5,000 workers.

A state-owned bank stepped in with a state-guaranteed loan of 3.5 billion rand ($2.4 million, 2.2 million euros) last month.

Despite the efforts, administrators warned that restructuring measures would also lead to job cuts.

“A reduction in the number of employees will unfortunately be necessary,” they said, pledging to “retain as many jobs as possible”.  

Meanwhile, SAA subsidiary SA Express appealed a judgement that placed the company under business rescue.

“It is clear that the court went over and above what it was required,” said the airline on Thursday in a statement. 

Source: AFP