National carrier South African Airways (SAA) has reduced its staff complement from 4 000 to just under 1 000 as pressure mounts for its return to the skies later this month.
Acting SAA chief executive Thomas Kgokolo told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Finance on Wednesday that the airline’s financial commitments included a R100 million package paid to workers last month.
“The tickets are going on sale. We are engaging stakeholders ... We have been mainly focused on fleet planning, we are a much smaller entity, medium short-term,” Kgokolo said.
“We had to look at route network. We looked at the demand in South Africa, regional routes, some of the developments in the region, to restart some of the routes.”
The carrier last week confirmed the first flights would commence on Thursday, September 23, and tickets went on sale on August 26.
Initially, SAA will operate flights from Joburg to Cape Town, Accra, Kinshasa, Harare, Lusaka and Maputo.
More destinations would be added to the route network as SAA ramped up operations in response to market conditions.
Since the national carrier came out of a 16-month business rescue process at the end of April, the government has been seized with planning for relaunching a “restructured” SAA.
SAA was at pains on Wednesday to inform the public of its state of readiness, with Gidon Novick, the chief executive of SAA’s chosen equity partner, the Takatso Consortium, denying rumours on social media that Global Aviation or Takatso itself had pulled out of the deal.
Novick reiterated on Wednesday that Global Aviation remained a key partner in the consortium, and the SAA transaction was at an advanced stage.
Takatso is a joint venture between infrastructure investment firm Harith as the majority shareholder and funder of the SAA deal, and Global Aviation, which operates low-cost airline Lift, among its other operations.
It is anticipated that the consortium will have to plough at least R3 billion into the new SAA over the next three years.
Takatso announced last week that its due diligence process was “substantially complete and no material issues have been identified”. In terms of the deal, the shareholding of the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) in SAA will be diluted.
“Takatso will now move ahead with concluding a share purchase agreement with the DPE for 51 percent of SAA. The agreement will be subject to various approvals and pre-conditions, which are likely to take some time,” the consortium said in a statement.
Takatso said it would make further details available about the funding once the transaction has been concluded.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE