SAA check-in desk at Cape Town International Airport. Picture: Henk Kruger / African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - Lungelo Nkosi should have been sipping cocktails on a stretch of Eastern Cape beach this weekend celebrating a romantic wedding anniversary.

Instead, he and his wife are stuck at home in Johannesburg because their SAA fight was cancelled.

“I was meant to be enjoying my wedding anniversary, but here I am watching nothing on TV,” said Nkosi.

The Nkosis are not alone.

Thousands of travellers have been left stranded as employees of the national airline went on strike yesterday.

SAA announced it had extended its flight cancellations for regional flights until at least Monday.

All international flights out of OR Tambo International Airport would resume as normal from tomorrow.

Nkosi says he now had to try to rearrange his anniversary plans.

“It’s been frustrating. We have had to opt for something near, so we’ve decided to take a trip to Hartbeespoort Dam.”

SAA check-in counters at its major airports were deserted yesterday after about 3000 of the 5000 work force downed tools.

Workers affiliated to the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) are demanding an 8% wage hike, rejecting the airline’s offer of 5.9%.

Unions are also striking over plans by the airline to retrench up to 900 workers in an attempt to cut debt that has piled up to R28billion.

The strike is expected to cost the carrier more than R50million a day, with more than 200 flights cancelled.

South African tennis star KG Montjane was among the passengers affected.

She was scheduled to fly to the US today to compete in a Masters tournament. Montjane, however, managed to rearrange a flight to get to the tournament.

Montjane said she was disappointed the airline did not bother to inform her that her flight had been cancelled.

“With the help of the travel agent I booked with, we managed to arrange a different flight. What’s frustrating is finding out about the strike on the news.”

“Pulling out of the tournament three days before without proper notice meant I was going to be charged for that and it was also going to affect my chances of accumulating points to improve my ranking and making sure I finish the year in a good spot.”

The sportswoman said she would not be using SAA again.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan was also affected by the strike.

The minister, who is responsible for SAA, was to travel from the US on flight SA204, but it was cancelled.

It is unknown whether Gordan had managed to arrange an alternative flight.

SAA’s head of customer service, Bali Mabena, said the airline had been doing everything to assist its passengers.

“Passengers can be rebooked on another South African Airways flight for any flight until October 31, 2020, at no extra charge,” she said. “If the customer no longer wishes to travel, a full refund, including taxes, will be offered.

“Where possible, passengers will also be rebooked onto flights operated by any of SAA’s Star Alliance partners to travel to their final destination with minimal disruption.”

Saturday Star