A chaotic weekend for SA Express

By Danielle van Wyk

Travellers were inconvenienced over the weekend when SA Express had its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) temporarily suspended by the South African Civil Aviation Authority. SACAA believed SA Express’ quality assurance systems were ‘inadequate.’ SACAA later reinstated SA Express’ AOC.

“We are currently in discussions with the SACAA and their concerns very seriously to resolve these challenges as a matter of urgency. We sincerely apologise to our passengers who are being inconvenienced by this regrettable decision but we assure them that we will do everything possible to accommodate them as closely to their original flight schedule as possible,” stated SA Express.

This, proving to be another example of how the state-owned entity flits from one crisis to the next, surviving literally from hand to mouth and causing untold brand damage to the airline and Public Enterprises, noted Natasha Mazzone Member of Parliament (MP) and Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises.

Due to the grounding, customers had to be accommodated on alternate carriers but still suffered long delays.

Following a meeting that was held between the airline and the SACAA, an SA Express team were able to submit the required paperwork to the SACAA, in compliance with its requirements, stated Inati Ntshanga, CEO of SA Express, the following day.

Forty-two hours post suspension, the airline confirmed reinstatement. “Clarity was provided in terms of the audit related concerns and procedural issues that the airline needed to adhere to, which has now been accepted and agreed to.

“It is regrettable that discrepancies in the submission of procedural paperwork and submission processes between SA Express and SACAA did not correspond. Following extensive consultations and revised documentation as well as submission procedures, our operating license has been reinstated and we will resume our normal operating schedule by 19:00 this evening. We assure the general public that this matter has been substantially addressed and will never occur again,” expressed Inati Ntshanga, CEO of SA Express.

The DA, however, were of a different opinion: “There can be no doubt that the airline’s precarious financial position has led to this embarrassing situation, and insiders are alleging that there is simply not enough money to pay for maintenance.”

“It is obvious that the only way to save both the reputations and actual existence of SAX and sister airline SAA is to privatise the failing state owned entity and completely overhaul the management of the airline.”

Mazzone added: “We have reiterated that this is not the fault of the pilots - this amounts to systematic failure by the airline’s management and the Department of Public Enterprises. The state-owned airlines are being run by inexperienced and unqualified management, many of whom are political appointments. Once again, South Africa is put second while the ANC puts itself first.  

“We are also questioning the proposed merger between SAX and SAA. When it comes to South African state-owned airlines, two wrongs certainly do not make a right.”

Ntshanga in turn took to assuring travellers that they would do everything to restore their faith in the airline: “We understand that because of procedural issues we have inadvertently let our passengers down. We have always been known for our reliability, our friendly service and our punctual departures and I assure you that my team and I will do everything possible to rebuild that service promise and to restore your faith and confidence in SA Express.” 

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