SAA preens wings as unions grit their teeth

National carrier South African Airways (SAA), 51% privately owned by the Takatso Consortium, telegraphed its return to the skies possibly in early September with the arrival of two Airbus 320s from Abu Dhabi to muscle back market share from rivals FlySafair and Airlink.

According to sources the aircrafts, each with the capacity to carry 138 passengers, will spearhead the airline’s return on the domestic market between Johannesburg and Cape Town, as well as the Durban route, in its first forays.

SAA said the aircraft, which were among those sent back to lessors, were placed in storage and given six year maintenance checks in Abu Dhabi during the airline’s time in business rescue, and had now been given “rigorous technical checks” and cleared for passenger flights.

Acting chief executive Thomas Kgokolo, in internal official communication, told staff that the airline had received its renewed operating licence from the Civil Aviation Authority, had reached settlement agreements with pilots, offers had been made to managers, and on specialist pilot positions.

“Internally, the SAA restart plans are at full thrust and the employee re-boarding project is in motion,” said Kgokolo.

Organised labour, the National Union of Metalworkers South Africa, the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) and the South African Airways Pilots Association (Saapa) though, said yesterday that they had not been engaged in the processes and had a gripe over outstanding issues, including the retrenchments of more than 3,000 staff, rehiring policies, the alleged breaking of a social contract by SAA and exclusion from consultations as key stakeholders.

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