After 544 days of grounded flights, South African Airlines (SAA) has emerged from bankruptcy proceedings with its first plane having flown on September 23 after flights were grounded in March 2020, and not necessarily only because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
SAA was once the second-largest airline in Africa, after Ethiopian Airlines, and the airline survived for decades on government bail-outs, experiencing rout cuts even before the full effect of the Covid-19 pandemic was felt across the globe.
In June, the South African government agreed that a 51% stake in SAA would be sold to the Takatso Consortium, which paved the way for a potential capital injection of over 2.9 billion ZAR. Following a state bail-out of over 7.3 billion ZAR and restructuring of its overall debt, SAA only emerged from bankruptcy after it had cut hundreds of jobs.
SAA takes to the sky yet again
Thursday morning saw the slimmed-down airline operate its first flight in over a year from Johannesburg to Cape Town, and passengers on the flight were greeted on departure by singing and dancing airline staff.
However, even if SAA is up and running yet again, it is merely a shadow of its former self operating only six aircraft of its previous 46 total. In addition to its domestic route that resumed on Thursday, SAA plans to start its regional services next week to Lusaka, Accra, Kinshasa, Maputo, and Harare.
The issues that surround the airline is only one of many examples of challenges that state-owned enterprises in South Africa face, especially with widespread corruption as one of the main problems.
SAA has been using public funds for decades and many are interested to see if operations will be sustainable after it emerged from bankruptcy and whether it can redeem its reputation.