SAA flights cancelled until Monday

Scores of travellers have been standing in a queue for hours to get assistance from some employees who decided to show up for work on Friday.

Passengers hoping to make alternative travel arrangements at the SAA counters at OR Tambo International Airport on 15 November 2019 after finding their flights cancelled by a strike. Picture: Sifiso Zulu/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – The South African Airways (SAA) has extended its flight cancellation to Monday.

The airlines said the latest move only affects domestic flights and those on the continent.

Flights were initially halted for Friday and Saturday, but the airline adds that its hoping international flights will resume on Sunday.

The disruption comes amid an indefinite strike by workers affiliated with the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca).

The employees are demanding an 8% salary hike and are angry over the airline's plans to lay off over 900 workers as part of its restructuring.

Friday has already seen delays, confusion and frustration for some SAA passengers at OR Tambo International Airport.

Scores of travellers have been standing in a queue for hours to get assistance from some employees who decided to show up for work on Friday.

The national carrier had to use other subsidiary airlines due to the two-day strike.

There was one SAA check-in counter operating in the early hours of Friday morning, serving a handful of customers.

However, as the day progressed and the number of passengers increased, the airline opened other counters to attend to the slow-moving queue.

Passengers flying domestically have been put on other flights but for most international travellers, it is a matter of waiting.

SAA is expected to give an update by Friday afternoon.

Still at the OR Tambo airport, police are out in their numbers including using four public order policing nyalas, the EMPD K9 Unit and police vans.

Law enforcement came prepared to meet this group of striking employees.

Workers came to Kempton Park early Friday morning but this time not to clock in for when their shift starts at 4 am but to put pressure on SAA to make drastic changes that won’t impact employees.

Singing, dancing, waving flags, blowing vuvuzelas and beating a drum - the mood was jubilant.

But the energy levels seem to be dwindling a bit around lunchtime compared to earlier.

However, workers are adamant they are not prepared to back down from their demands, warning of putting even more pressure on SAA this weekend.


Meanwhile, Numsa and Sacca say SAA's decision to extend flight cancellations showed their indefinite strike was working.

Despite their numbers dwindling outside SA Airways Park, Numsa and Sacca leadership said their resolve was still strong.

Workers are there with placards, in their trademark shirts, having a mini braai as the day goes by.

Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said the latest move by SAA to cancel more flights motivated them.

“It is absolutely the pressure of the strike. But this is not how you resolve a strike, call us, let’s sit down and work together because as far as we’re concerned, this is a reckless decision.”

She added: “We’re certainly disappointed that this is the decision taken by management. This is a lot of money [that they’re going to lose], they’ve said themselves that it’s R52 million a day multiply by four, that’s much more than what we’re demanding in wages. Why don’t they just sit with us, so we can negotiate and find a way forward.”

Unions and SAA management are expected to meet with the CCMA on Saturday in order to try to reach an agreement.