With commercial services halted since September 2020, the state-owned flag carrier South African Airways considers resuming its operations in the summer of 2021.
Speaking at a hearing with a parliamentary committee on May 14, 2021, Thomas Kgokolo, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of South African Airways (SAA) disclosed that the airline plans to resume flights in July or August 2021. However, the CEO pointed out that the exact date of the relaunch would depend on the further development of the COVID-19 infection rates worldwide.
“As a draft or as a proposal we are looking at July-August 2021. […] However these dates come with some complexities, the issue of the COVID-19 is something that we still need to consider,” the CEO said and hinted that the airline currently deals with its pilot dispute over outstanding wages as well as layoff terms.
Although SAA left business rescue in April 2021, the company has not yet reached an agreement with its pilots over their outstanding salaries. In March 2021, the SAA Pilots’ Association (SAAPA) brought the matter to the Labour Appeal Court of South Africa, claiming that the airline had not been paying wages for flight crews from June 1 to December 18, 2020. The SAAPA also claimed domestic and international meal allowances from before the air carrier went into business rescue in December 2019, reaching up to almost $1 billion (R11 billion).
The arbitration ruling which was concluded on May 7, 2021, ordered SAA to pay a group of 360 SAAPA members the backdated meal allowances as well as salaries for the six months to December 2020. However, as the airline has not settled the issue yet, its pilots are currently on strike.
The state-owned air carrier was put into administration in December 2019 and has not been conducting any commercial flights since September 2020, while it was waiting for restructuring funding. When the government of South Africa allocated SAA $550 million in April 2021, the company exited the bankruptcy administration.