we will realise cumulative savings over three years that will amount to R313 million by the end of the 2019/2020 financial year. Photo: Reuters

CAPE TOWN – The South African Airways Pilots’ Association (Saapa) has reiterated its commitment to the airline and is supportive of chief executive Vuyani Jarana’s efforts to turn the state-owned airline around.

In a statement on Wednesday, Saapa chairperson Grant Back said: “We believe that SAA can be saved and can be an African leader once again. This can be achieved through calm, rational engagement and the unimpeded implementation of the strategy to return SAA to success.”

Back said Jarana had made some important and crucial interventions since his arrival in November 2017. “A few executives and managers have been suspended and terminated. Procurement contracts are being reviewed, reassessed and renegotiated. 

“He has also begun to address the issues at SAA Technical and in Operations, and we trust that he will continue to take action to ensure the right people and processes are put in place to address these issues.”

Back said as the pilots of SAA, they were prepared to continue playing their part to help turn the airline around.

Over the last few years, despite independent verification that the pilots’ contribution to cost is below the average international benchmark, Saapa has made several proposals to SAA management to contribute to lowering SAA’s operating costs, according to the statement. 

“By implementing these measures, we will realise cumulative savings over three years that will amount to R313 million by the end of the 2019/2020 financial year. 

“This has been achieved through a voluntary reduction in pilot headcount and salary increases that were not only below the industry norm, but also less than the rest of SAA staff. We are continuing to engage with management to realise further savings,”said Back.

He said the pilots of SAA, with more than 10 000 years of service between them, were invested in saving the airline. “Our point of departure is that, whatever we do, we must enhance the long-term prospects of SAA and address the real issues – which include attracting and retaining the best pilots.”

“Our national carrier can succeed if the SAA Board and leadership are prepared to focus on the real problems at SAA. The brutal truth is that SAA needs to hire the best managers who must be held accountable. It must also take drastic action to increase revenue and address costs that are out of line with international benchmarks, no matter how politically difficult it may be,” said Back.

He said they were under no illusion about the scale of the task that lay ahead, and remained supportive of the chief executive’s efforts to turn SAA around. “Emerging from this turbulent period will require all of us to pull together in the best interests of the airline and the people of this country.”