SAA Technical maintains aircraft for SAA, its subsidiary Mango Airlines and British Airways franchise partner Comair. Photo: Cara Viereckl/African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN – South African Airways (SAA) announced that it has cancelled nearly all its domestic, regional and international flights scheduled for Friday and Saturday in a move aimed at minimising the impact of disruptions for its customers.

This after an announcement by the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) that their members would embark on industrial action from Friday morning. 

This is notwithstanding SAA’s repeated overtures to the unions to acknowledge the severity of the current situation facing the airline.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said the airline was putting its customers first and regretted the inevitable inconvenience caused by the cancellations.

“Unless alternative arrangements are in place, customers are requested not to go to their departure airports during the disruption as SAA will be unable to provide any assistance. Information on the status of our flights will be regularly updated on our website,” said Tlali.

Meanwhile, Comair announced that it would continue its operations notwithstanding the threatened industrial action at South African Airways Technical (SAAT).

SAA Technical maintains aircraft for SAA, its subsidiary Mango Airlines and British Airways franchise partner Comair.

The British Airways partner said contingency plans were in place to mitigate any impact the SAAT strike may have on Comair’s fleet availability and flight schedule.

“We will do everything possible to keep customers informed and to minimise the impact of any SAAT strike action. Serving our customers remains our priority,” Wrenelle Stander, Comair’s Joint CEO, says.

On Wednesday the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and Sacca served SAA and SAAT with a 48-hour notice to strike. 

Participating in the strike will be members of SAA Cabin crew, check-in, ticket sales, head office, technical staff, and ground staff. “There are likely to be disruptions and therefore we advise members of the public to make alternative arrangements if they have booked flights with SAA,” said Numsa and Sacca in a statement.

Together Numsa and Sacca represent more than 3 000 workers at SAA.

“Pilots received a 5.9 percent increase and SAA agreed to pay them. Our members are simply demanding their increase as well. Our members earn much lower than pilots which is why the demand is 8 percent.

“In response to these demands, SAA management served us with an intention to retrench and restructure the airline. They claim that they cannot meet our demands because there is not enough money and that the dismissal of 944 workers will save the airline R700 million, and ensure its survival.

“We reject their explanation. It is our view that this is nothing more than an attempt to force workers to drop their demands for an increase, which they deserve and have worked very hard for. 

“In 2015 workers were retrenched and the same reasons were given. That process has clearly failed to deliver on results because four years later, management is retrenching once again,” reads the statement.