South African Airways is certainly poorly run, but its demise would be a huge loss to travelers. My recent trip on SAA is a testament to that.
Reports have emerged that the South African government will provide no further financial lifeline to South African Airways. If true, there’s a strong chance that SAA will be liquidated and cease to exist, as least in its current form.
Already, the airline has been in “Business Rescue” for months (a form of bankruptcy protection intended to reorganize the company) but the South African government, facing other grave matters, has opted to pull funding (for now at least).
Part of me think that South African Airways will never be allowed to collapse, just like Air India or Alitalia. On the other hand, SAA continues to lose money, year after year after year, and the mass layoffs necessary to at least try to survive have been met with fierce opposition and industrial action.
All that aside, South African Airways is a delight to fly…at least for me it was. I’m saving major new trip reports, at least for now, until we get out of this time of social isolation. You may recall, however, that I was in Africa last month just before several travel bans went into place and the trip included two flights on South African Airways, from Cape Town to Accra via Johannesburg.
The overall experience was lovely. Clean planes, great service, tasty food, and a nice lounges. I teased my A330-300 report in a teaser post, but reiterate here how professional staff were, how delicious the menu was, and how comfortable the business class seat was.
There’s often a disconnect, as is the case with Alitalia, between the onboard product and financial health of the company. That is certainly true at South African Airways, where the business class product greatly exceeds regional rivals like Kenya Airways.
But it’s about more than onboard service. It’s about connectivity and a ripple effect of jobs. Will Ethiopan step in to fill the void or will another flag carrier quickly emerge? Will British Airways via its perpetually profitable Comair subsidiary, step up? Only time will tell.
The fall of any carrier is nothing to celebrate. Here, I cannot help but to feel sad as it seems SAA has reached the end of the line. Yes, perhaps it needs to go. But the onboard product in both economy and business class was perfectly competitive. Absent paying employees slave wages to do more work, it may be that a national airline is simply not possible in South Africa.
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