South African Airways (SAA) is set to return to the skies on September 23, but the airline has expressed concern, indicating that it might be an uphill task to get stakeholders, including the passengers, to regain trust in the carrier.
The national carrier will resume flights after 16 months of being grounded due to viability challenges, despite repeated government bailouts and implementation of business rescue plan.
The operational failure of the SAA has allegedly been caused by corruption, and the inescapable impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Resumption of flights comes three months after the government ceded part of its airline stake to Takatso Consortium, who are now the majority shareholders with a 51 percent stake.
The airline’s interim chief executive officer Thomas Kgokolo said that winning back the stakeholders’ trust would “take time.”
However, he expressed great optimism in the airline’s team’s ability to turn things around, saying that “with the confidence and the enthusiasm our staff are showing ahead of our take off, I’m confident we will achieve the set goals quickly.”
Mr Kgokolo also noted that they were ready to rise above the difficult history of SAA and regain its place in the industry.
“SAA is a brand that is respected globally, and I am proud that we are celebrating its eighty-seventh anniversary later this year. As the custodian of this prominent brand, we have a duty to reshape it to an airline all South Africans can be proud of,” he added.
SAA was initially scheduled to return to the skies in July but the recapitalisation process delayed its take off.
Takatso consortium, made up of aviation group Global Aviation Operators and private equity firm Harith General Partners, assumed a 51 percent controlling stake in SAA, while the government retained 49 percent.
Ahead of the airline’s scheduled take off, three daily flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town have been confirmed.
Daily return flights to Harare, Lusaka and Maputo have been scheduled starting September 27.
Three weekly flights to Accra and Kinshasa have also been confirmed and there has so far been no announcement on servicing European routes.
In trying to reclaim top spot in the local air transport industry, as well as on the continent, SAA says it is adopting a customer-centered “new business and operating philosophy” to build trust.
“Managers and staff have been working collegially on a new philosophy of customer excellence,” the airline said in a statement.
“Some of the attributes that airline staff will be striving to build are: creating real connections with each other and customers; adopting an internal culture of collaboration; living by the principles of total accountability; being aspirational in terms of future growth and development; and containing costs,” the airline further added in the statement.