South African Airways extends flight cancellations to Monday

South African Airways extends flight cancellations to Monday

JOHANNESBURG - South African Airways (SAA) has extended the cancellation of all domestic and regional flights to Monday, it said, as a majority of its employees went on strike on Friday.

The state airline said it was aiming to operate most of its international flights departing from Johannesburg's O.R. Tambo International Airport from Sunday.

It said inbound flights from London, New York, Washington, Munich, Frankfurt and Hong Kong were set to operate from Monday. 

SAA, which has not turned a profit since 2011 and is without a permanent CEO, says the strike by unions representing more than half of its workforce will cost it 50 million rand ($3.36 million) per day and threatens its survival.

The unions rejected SAA’s revised wage offer late on Thursday, and are also striking over the carrier’s plans to cut more than 900 jobs in a bid to stem financial losses and end a reliance on state bailouts.

SAA’s acting chief financial officer, Deon Fredericks, told the eNCA news channel that the airline, hurt by past mismanagement, could not just close its eyes and carry on.

“We’ll just go deeper down,” he said.

SAA is currently trying to negotiate funding from banks it needs to stay afloat. Fredericks said the airline would not survive without the money, and the financial impact of the strike could jeopardise the talks.

The National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) called the SAA strike from 0200 GMT on Friday. The unions said the strike will continue until their demands, including an 8% wage increase and job security, are met.

NUMSA spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said the unions did not believe management’s warnings of possible collapse, and the airline’s problems were a result of their repeated failures.