Needing an SOE airline is an outdated concept as Kim Kardashian wearing a bra
JOHANNESBURG - The concept of needing a petrol-guzzling wholly-owned state airline in 2019 is as outdated as the concept Kim Kardashian wearing a bra to the Oscars.
As SAA enters bankruptcy rescue collectively most South Africans are breathing a sigh of relief.
However, I also get why Javed Malik, the recent leader of the BRICS Regional Aviation Working Group, is passionate about SAA and what it represents.
I was present at President Cyril Ramaphosa's inauguration earlier this year and felt great pride in seeing the display that SAA put on.
However, it has become the face of state capture, flying in the face of sound corporate governance principles.
Conversely, with South Africa's sluggish economy it would be hard to witness another job provider fail if it could be kick-started. SAA still has its loyal fans, despite the oversaturated market space it occupies.
Aviation is still profitable if the right business model is used. The International Air Transport Association this month moved to reduce airline fears of a recession in 2020.
Forecasts expect the global airline industry to produce a net profit of $29.3 billion in 2020.
But at this point there is more South African pride in gutsy Faf de Klerk’s South African-themed Speedo swimming trunks he wore in the wake of the Boks’ 32-12 World Cup final win over England.
Other nations too have run the gauntlet of the argument that state-owned airlines are statehood symbols, but ultimately ended up privatising them fully or partially due to the Achilles heel of inefficiency, lack of innovation and a bloated workforce.
Without the carrot of competition these airlines plunged into a spiralling abyss of unsustainable debt.
From British Airways to Lufthansa the era of state-owned airlines has been eroded, but it has finally gone beyond that.
State-owned airlines belong to a Kodak moment. We are amid a transport Fourth Industrial Revolution and any mode of transport that is petrol guzzling will at some point go the way of the dodo. How people view the world has changed.
Aviation with its carbon footprint increasingly is becoming a pariah due to climate concerns. Why fly unnecessarily? You need to look no further than climate activist Greta Thunberg, who recently graced the cover of Time magazine's as Person of the Year 2019, to know that the winds of change are upon us.
According to Bloomberg, the Swedish word flygskam or its German version, Flugscham, meaning “flight shame,” is one of the words of 2019. The countries where people are most worried about climate change do appear to be seeing drops in avoidable air traffic.
In November, the number of people taking domestic flights in Germany fell 12 percent year-on-year, while the number of intercontinental passengers increased and intra-European travel dropped less sharply.
As innovation shapes the world, South Africa needs to get more agile and stop clinging to the flotsam of the past.
Whether SAA survives or not is anyone's guess.
As De Klerk demonstrated, there are other ways of upping one's ball skills and flying the national symbol.
Philippa Larkin is the content editor of Business Report.