Kulula
  • Kulula, British Airways South Africa, and Mango Airlines, which all use SAA Technical to fix, maintain and service their aircraft might have to take their planes to international destinations, at a high cost, if the SAA strike goes on for a significant duration.
  • FlySafair, which has its own technical unit, can’t take on any more aircraft.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za

Local airline FlySafair’s technical unit was at capacity dealing with its own aircraft, and won’t be able to take on anything further due to the South African Airways (SAA) strike.

That means that Kulula, British Airways South Africa, and Mango Airlines, which all use SAA Technical to fix, maintain and service their aircraft might have to take their planes to international destinations, at a high cost, if the SAA strike goes on for a significant duration. The strike by SAA workers over pay and other issues started on November 15.

Apart from not having capacity, FlySafair head of sales and distribution, Kirby Gordon says taking on new planes to fix, maintain and service was a big regulatory rigmarole, so its technical division wouldn’t be able to, at the flick of a switch, take on new aircraft due to the SAA strike.

“The biggest thing with the South African Civil Aviation Authority is that you have to have very clear lines of accountability. So, they need to know if something went wrong with the aircraft who was responsible for maintaining it and who is liable for the issue,” he says.

“An aircraft comes with a library of documentation attached to it that indicates what work was done on it,” Gordon says.

SAAT was probably prioritising short-term “line maintenance”, which happens on a day-to-day basis such as changing tyres and light bulbs, he says.

“SAAT would have to take engineers out of the heavy [long-term] maintenance and put them into line maintenance. Heavy maintenance is what is likely to be suffering at SAAT right now given the strike.

“Where [Comair and Mango] will be feeling pain will be with heavy maintenance. If the strike goes on for more than two weeks, then they will start to feel the maintenance issues,” he says.

FlySafair operates a total of 16 Boeings, made up of Boeing 737-400 and Boeing 737-800 aircraft, in its passenger section and in its cargo unit the airline has two more Boeings and five Lockheed Hercules L100-30C planes, he says.

Gordon says that if SAAT ran out of capacity, Kulula, British Airways, and Mango Airlines, would have to take their planes to an international destination, possibly in Europe, to get their aircraft fixed, maintained, or serviced.

Susan van der Ryst, the spokesperson for Comair, which operates Kulula and British Airways in SA, says that around 40% of the SAAT staff were on strike.

“SAAT has sufficient staff to maintain and deliver on their maintenance obligations,” Van der Ryst says.

Regarding alternatives that Comair had in place should SAAT not be able to meet its obligations, Van der Ryst says: “Contingency plans are in place should the need arise.”

Strikes looming at Mango, Comair

Sergio Santos-van Vuuren, the spokesperson for Mango Airlines, says: “We can confirm that Mango is still receiving service from SAAT. With the majority of the SAA fleet being grounded there is additional capacity in the organisation, which has allowed for services to be provided to Mango and Comair aircraft.”

Mango Airlines is SAA’s low-cost airline, and it hasn’t been the subject of the SAA strike yet.

However, Santos-van Vuuren says that Mango, which employs 780, received a strike notice from the South African Cabin Crew Association on Tuesday.

“There was a clerical error in the notification, so we have written to them for clarification,” he says.

Comair has also been served with a strike notice by Numsa.

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