SAA's Pilots Association welcomes Airbus swap deal

The association says it’s a step in the right direction but analysts warn it signals Zuma's loss of control.

A South African airways flight takes off as another one is parked in a bay on the tarmac on 25 May, 2010 at the Johannesburg O.R Tambo International airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The National Treasury's deal with Airbus and South African Airways (SAA), which will save the national carrier $100 million US dollars, has been welcomed by the Airline's Pilots Association.

While the association says it's a step in the right direction, political analysts are warning it signals a loss of control by President Jacob Zuma.

The Treasury last night announced SAA would go ahead with a swap transaction, which forfeits the purchase of 10 new Airbus carriers and approves the leasing of five directly from Airbus.

This means a pre-delivery payment will be returned to SAA and a proposal to secure a third party financier abandoned.

The SAA Pilots Association landed in hot water earlier this month after lamenting the state of management at the airline.

This has put them in direct conflict with the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), but the association's chairperson John Harty says the Treasury's deal is a positive outcome.

"I think we'll still have a bit more of it but I'm hoping we'll have a new board in place soon and we can just move on and get on with the business."

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga says the deal speaks volumes about the president's control.

" He has tried to fiddle with Treasury. It has been so costly that for the first time the nation has actually, across class, across race, called for his removal."

Treasury spokesperson Phumza Macanda says SAA has confirmed the process is underway to conclude the deal within the next few days.

"What Minister Gordhan did after he was reappointed, was to give SAA another turn to make presentations."

Treasury says further measures will be taken next year to stabilise the embattled airline.

The new swap transaction is expected to be finalised by the 28th of this month.