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Mission to stabilise SAA

New SAA chair, Vuyisile Kona, says the mission is to now have a “well-run, efficient airline.”

South African Airways plane. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Newly appointed South African Airways (SAA) board chairman Vuyisile Kona said the next step following government's R5 billion guarantee for two years is to stabilise the national airline.

Government granted the guarantee to fund SAA's new fleet on Tuesday, on condition the board presents a turnaround strategy for the airline by January.

In 2004, a loss of R6 billion wiped out SAA's capital base and in 2008, soaring oil prices resulted in the loss of R1 billion.

Last week, six board members and the chair Cheryl Carolus resigned, saying their professional integrity had been dragged through the mud.

But Kona is optimistic about the airline's future, he revealed on Wednesday.

"All major airlines are suffering, so SAA is not unique. All we need is to have a well-run, efficient airline."

Meanwhile, aviation company Comair Airways Limited has challenged the loan - basing its argument on an aviation transport policy developed by government - to govern the behaviour and funding of SAA in a competitive domestic environment.

Comair CEO Erik Venter on Wednesday said SAA accumulated losses of about R17 billion since deregulation in 1992, but since then, nine of the 11 private airlines competing with it have failed.

"The fact that they can now go to government to fund their new fleet means they can continue to operate at a loss because government will step in and fund the fleet when the result of their loses becomes apparent."