SAA international flights suspension might lead to liquidation: Experts

Aviation experts says the decision by South African Airways (SAA) to suspend all its international flights will eventually push the airline to either liquidation or to re-starting on a new slate

The state-owned airline announced on Friday that it is suspending all international operations with immediate effect until 31 May in light of government’s travel ban to stop transmission of the coronavirus.

Earlier this week, the struggling airline cancelled 162 intercontinental and regional flights until the end of this month.

SAA’s Business Rescue Practitioner had identified international routes as part of the core of the newly-refocused airline.

Aviation economist Joachim Vermooten says for SAA to survive the current storm it will need government funding.

“This will be a decision of BRP. They will have to have a strong case to restart the airline, otherwise they will have to recommend liquidation. It will take about 6 to 7 months to attain the previous volumes that were, demand prior to the event starting. That is basically a year. Government will have to decide if it will foot the bill without revenue for the full year or whether is not possible. ”

Meanwhile travel agents say they are extremely anxious about their livelihoods as the international travel ban kicks in and flights are cancelled.  SABC spoke to some travel agents …

“We are completely overwhelmed. We wake up and just when we are getting on top of things then new things come up and another country closes and another airline stops flying. It is really overwhelming, but we are quite a strong industry. We just don’t know how long it’s going to take to get through all of this,” says one travel agent.

“So, we have to stay on top of policy and every change that comes in and we are all doing our best to move our customer travels to a future date. But at the moment, we are all limited, because there are passengers that want to travel.”

Earier, it was announced that 14 international flights from countries at high risk of the coronavirus had been grounded at the OR Tambo International Airport.

Spokesperson for the airport, Betty Maloka says only South African passengers and those with permanent residence permits are allowed to disembark while the rest of the passengers will be sent back to their the countries of origin.

“It will then be grounded at the airport until it can return to the country of origin, but South African citizens and permanent residence are allowed to disembark and they will go through a rigorous medical assessment. When the aircraft goes back it goes back with those passengers and those foreigners. There is no disruptions at the airport, both domestic and international, and this is only affecting international arrivals from those high risk countries.”