The South African Airways (SAA) business rescue practitioners have again requested a postponement for their business rescue plan.
This is the fourth time they have called for a postponement, while around R10bn has been spent since December to keep the airline alive.
In a letter to the government on Thursday, the business rescuers are still asking for a postponement because they must first consult the creditors, the unions, the government as a shareholder and banks before the final plan can be submitted, the news service Enca reports.
Last week, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan was deeply upset about the progress made by business rescuers, Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana. All they have been able to show so far is a bill of over R30m for all kinds of consulting fees. Gordhan believes they can do much more to cut costs.
There also appears to be internal tensions between the business rescuers and SAA’s management who are engaged in the day-to-day operations of the airline.
For example, SAA’s regular media channels announced in a statement on Tuesday that the airline will resume its domestic flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town by mid-June. SAA head of trade Philip Saunders is quoted in the statement.
Passengers with unused SAA air tickets were also informed that they could use the tickets until March 24, 2022 for flights from this airline.
However, the business rescuers said in their own statement on Wednesday that flights will not be resumed until the SAA has a better indication of what the level 3 containment regulations regarding domestic air transport are.
On Thursday, it appeared that domestic air transport would be allowed at level 3, but only in business travel. Tourists will not be allowed on the flights.
The business rescuers on Wednesday also castigated what they described as certain inaccuracies in the report on last week’s meeting of Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts.
At that meeting, Gordhan and MPs capsized on business council rates and their use of and spending on consultants.
On Wednesday, they tried to explain that SAA is not the only airline in crisis and the condition for banks to continue to fund SAA is precisely the involvement of international consultants who are experts in airline restructuring. That is why the Alvarez & Marsal consultants were appointed with the banks’ approval.
On Gordhan’s claim that they are doing too little to save money, the business rescuers on Wednesday argued that they could cut the airline’s operating costs by R500m a month.
The business rescuers must publish a plan on how a business will be rescued within 25 working days in accordance with the Companies Act’s regulations on business rescue.
The first request for deferral was made on December 20, after the SAA was placed in voluntary business rescue in early December last year. The postponement was until February 28. But on that day, they requested another month of deferral until March 31, and by March 20, deferral was requested again until May 29 (Friday).