Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)
JOHANNESBURG - Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said yesterday that the board of state-owned airline SA Express was mulling a business plan that could see the carrier put its troubles behind it.

SA Express said yesterday that the South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had reinstated its Aircraft Maintenance Organisation (AMO) certification, which is a step towards the resumption of the troubled carrier’s flights. 

In May, South Africa’s CAA added to SA Express’s financial and operational problems when it grounded its flights with immediate effect, because the airline could not meet safety requirements.

 The regulator suspended SA Express’s Operator’s Certificate (AOC) and AMO approvals. At the time, CAA said SA Express’s safety management system was deficient. The suspension put a further strain on SA Express and, until the Department of Public Enterprises intervened, there were doubts about the payment of June salaries. 

“It is through the intense work of the ministerial intervention team and the new board that SA Express is on the verge of resuming its commercial airline operations. “The efforts to get the airline fully operational again included raising capital for SA Express’s immediate liquidity needs from commercial banks,” said Gordhan. 

Gordhan was upbeat about the airline’s prospects. He said the SA Express board was evaluating “a fairly exciting” business plan, which would return SA Express to full functionality “and even expand its services on the continent and in South Africa. “

The board has a firm grasp of bad governance and maladministration. These issues will be dealt with in due course,” he said. 

SA Express said since the suspension it had undergone a stringent and rigorous process to meet CAA’s standards. 

“All of our corrective action plans were accepted by the CAA for all the findings, which led to the suspension of the AMO and the AOC. A team comprising members of the newly appointed board of directors, the ministerial intervention team, as well as SA Express’s dedicated employees have worked tirelessly to implement the CAA-approved corrective action plans,” the airline said. 

It said it had focused on addressing the root causes that led to the airline’s grounding. Without elaborating, SA Express said it had restructured internal processes that led to the suspension. It said South Africa’s CAA yesterday commenced with a five-phase process to re-certify the airline’s AOC.

 “As soon as the SA Express AOC has been reinstated by the CAA, the airline will be ready to again fly its passengers in comfort and safety,” it said. 

As SA Express and South African Airways (SAA) continue to battle profitability and liquidity problems, the government has raised the possibility of merging state-owned airlines. 

Gordhan in May said a merger of SA Express, SAA and Mango was possible. Federation of Unions of South Africa general secretary Dennis George said yesterday that the reinstatement of SA Express’s AMO certification was a relief.