Velvet Sky grounds all flights

2012-02-28 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Velvet Sky has grounded all its flights for seven days until March 5 and will change its directors, the low-cost airline said yesterday.

The shareholders’ said they remained committed to the airline, but would make radical changes to the board of directors and the management team over next few days, Gary Webb, operations manager, said yesterday.

Excalibur Aerospace is the majority owner of Velvet Sky airline, which is based in Durban and flies to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Polokwane.

“The suspension will allow the company time to reconstitute its board, and balance sheet and realign its short-term strategy.

“It will also allow the company time to properly resolve disputes with certain suppliers,” said Webb.

He said the airline would in the coming week solve the dispute with suppliers. He said the airline was changing service providers, and the matter had not been concluded in time to allow flights to get off the ground.

Fuel suppliers are meanwhile boycotting the airline. Webb said they could not continue working in this way. That was why the airline had taken the tough decision to stop all activities for the week ahead.

Webb said this would give passengers “certainty” and the airline “a chance to find its feet again”.

Webb said the situation had been getting worse over the past few days and drastic action was necessary. “This is drastic action,” Webb said.

He said the shareholders’ changes to the board of directors and managers of Velvet Sky should give the “necessary message” to suppliers.

Solomon Makgale, spokesperson for the Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa), yesterday confirmed that Acsa has entered into a payment agreement with Velvet Sky.

In terms of the agreement Velvet Sky must pay daily for any services rendered by Acsa.

There is also an agreement in terms of which the airline will pay off its debt to Acsa.

Excalibur Aerospace chairperon Stephen Nthiti was not available for comment yesterday.

One analyst, who wanted to remain anonymous, said it was too late for Velvet Sky to get airborne again.

BP Southern Africa earlier said the airline owed it R17 million and has applied in the high court in Pietermaritzburg to have the airline liquidated.

— Media24-Sapa.

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