KwaZulu-Natal - South Africa’s skies could soon open up to two new low-cost airlines if a proposal to buy out provisionally liquidated 1time Airline and an application for a licence to operate a new airline succeed.
Just one day after low-cost African airline Fastjet – a subsidiary of the London-based company Lonhro – announced it was in negotiations to buy 1time Airline, the airline’s original founders presented a proposal to the Air Services Licensing Council to operate another airline, SkyWise.
If both plans get the go-ahead, 1time could be flying again by Christmas while SkyWise could spread its wings early next year.
1time liquidator Aviwe Ndymara confirmed that negotiations were under way with Fastjet, but said it would be “irresponsible” to divulge details at this stage.
“We are busy with negotiations 24/7 and there are lots of stakeholders involved. We have spoken to the creditors, employees and various government departments and are confident, but there are also a lot of challenges that lie ahead.”
However, 1time employees arrived at the department of transport’s offices on Wednesday to oppose the application for a new operating licence by the airline’s former chief executive officer Rodney James, former chief information officer Michael Kaminski, and founder and group chief executive officer Glenn Orsmond. The former managing director of Sun Air, Johan Borstlap, is also part of the group applying to operate SkyWise.
The employees handed a letter to the chairman of the licensing committee outlining why they were opposed to the granting of a new operating licence.
Some of those arguments included that the “misconduct” of the previous founders of 1time could not be rewarded with a licence to operate another airline, as it would just be an opportunity to “ruin another listed company”.
Lorraine Hartnieck was among a group of about 10 employees who formally submitted their objection and sat in on the presentation by their former bosses. A group of about 30 employees waited outside.
Hartnieck said the committee would consider the presentation as well as take into account the employees’ objection. If it granted the licence to SkyWise, Hartnieck said the employees would be able to appeal.
“Different people feel different things about this, but I would not work for them again. I just feel that 1time was their baby and they should have been putting their resources into their baby, not abandoning it and then running off to make a baby with someone else.”
Employee Daniela Lewis, who was unable to attend the letter handover but supported it, said she and her colleagues had been loyal to the airline but were “thrown under the bus”.
However, another former employee, Kirsty van der Walt, who has since gained new employment, was not as critical.
“I am not necessarily against them opening a new airline… Maybe they made some wrong choices but I don’t think it was deliberate.”
James and Orsmond could not be reached for comment.
Ed Winter, chief executive officer of Fastjet, said its proposed transaction to buy 1time would involve paying a nominal fee for the purchase as well as reaching a settlement with 1time’s creditors.
“If this transaction goes ahead we would hope to get 1time flying again in time for Christmas,” he said in a statement.
“1time would be rebranded into the Fastjet brand and sold through fastjet.com,” Winter said, adding that Fastjet would potentially increase the number of available route networks from South Africa into the rest of Africa and hoped to keep many of the original 1time staff. - The Mercury