Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi / African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town – Flying passengers should brace themselves for more disruptions this week as safety concerns by the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) have forced airlines to ground planes and make adjustments to schedules

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Tuesday there was no reason for panic and that “everything should be back to normal by the end of the week”.

National carrier SAA said it may operate on an amended flight schedule following a decision to recall some of its aircraft.

“A number of airlines announced delays and grounding of aircraft yesterday morning as a precautionary measure following a safety audit conducted by SACAA on SAA Technical (SAAT), which maintains aircraft on behalf of a number of airlines, including SAA, Mango and Comair/British Airways,” said Mbalula.

The minister said that the call to ground aircraft was not made by SACAA, but operators themselves as “an act of precaution”.

Mbalula could not say what technical faults were noted in the audit report.

“SACAA is an agency of the Department of Transport with a mandate to regulate aviation safety and security.

“The regulator has consistently maintained a proud safety record, earning accolades from its peers around the world.

“We have been briefed by SACAA that as a consequence of the sampling of a few aircraft, these were subsequently issued with a prohibition order, meaning that these could not operate until they had addressed the non-compliances,” said Mbalula.

“There is no crisis and need for panic. These checks happen all the time and are important. SAA, in particular, have a plan to address the challenges,” said Mbalula.

He said there was not a total shutdown and that when the regulator spoke, action must be taken.

“The delays and cancellations experienced yesterday morning were precautionary measures taken by the affected airlines to ensure that no aircraft takes to the skies without absolute certainty as to its airworthiness,” he said.

SAA said some of its flights would operate later than usual. It said there were four domestic flight cancellations yesterday and it had combined flights and deployed larger aircraft to accommodate affected passengers.

“SAA understands the inspection by SACAA was in accordance with its regulations and a necessary exercise to ensure compliance and safety,” it said

Mango Airlines said: “As safety is our primary concern, we immediately began working with SAAT throughout the night to rectify these findings and are confident that we will have aircraft that are safe and ready for service during the course of day (yesterday).

“However, as the process is not yet concluded, this does mean that some delays will be experienced.

“Mango Airlines has activated contingency plans in order to minimise disruption during the course of today and ensure our guests reach their destinations safely. 

"We will continue to update affected guests via SMS and will publish updated schedules on our social media platforms,” the airline said.

Comair said its flight schedule had been amended and it was working to normalise the schedule and minimise disruptions.  

Airports Company SA (Acsa) said: “We are working with the affected airlines to understand their respective contingency plans and what the potential impact of the SACAA directive is on airport operations. 

“Acsa will provide further information as soon as it is available to us. “In the meantime, affected passengers should remain in contact with their respective airlines.”

Cape Times