Time is up for 1time

2012-11-03 00:00

IN September, 1time airline staff in Durban received half their normal pay and last month just a quarter.

By 3 pm yesterday they were jobless and facing the wrath of stranded passengers.

According to one employee, Dylan Botha, staff had stuck it out despite not being paid in full, believing the low-cost airline would soar again.

Their bosses had assured them that while 1time was experiencing tough times, it would recover.

Botha was among shocked airline staff at King Shaka International who had to face unemployment, and also aggressive passengers.

At 3pm, 1time’s directors had to accept that a business rescue had failed, and they pulled the plug.

“It’s unfair that they waited until the last minute to tell us that there is a problem. I was told 10 minutes ago (3 pm) that I don’t have a job anymore,” Botha told Weekend Witness.

1time CEO Blacky Komani was reportedly too emotional to be interviewed yesterday.

He had apparently told a journalist a few months ago that he had put his house up as surety for his consortium to buy the airline.

Some disgruntled passengers at King Shaka reacted angrily when they were told their tickets would not be honoured.

A family of 20 was among those left stranded in Durban and Johannesburg.

They intended to fly to Cape Town for a surprise 21st birthday and heard on radio that the airline had gone belly up.

Chernell Palany (20), who had been looking forward to her cousin’s party, told Weekend Witness the family had rushed to the airport after they heard the news.

“None of the 1time staff was telling us anything.”

They were at the airport for 90 minutes before deciding to go to Mango to buy other tickets, but these were not cheap. A return ticket was R5 000 each she said, over and above the R3 000 already spent on their 1time tickets.

Only five out of the 20 family members were able to fly to Cape Town at those prices, Palany said.

Her 70-year-old grandfather, Matthew Kannian, said he was exhausted from running around the airport, but he didn’t want to miss his grandson’s party.

“We’re frustrated, but what can we do? We’ve booked Mango flights and paid double the price.”

James Mawela, a passenger on his way to Johannesburg, said he booked his ticket at 2 pm, paying R1 059.

“When I arrived to check in I was told that the airline is no longer operational. I booked this afternoon and they still took my money.”

Passengers were told to fill in refund forms that would take between seven to 14 days to process.

“I don’t know if I will get my money back. It’s highly unlikely,” Mawela said.

Zanele Nxipu, a Johannesburg businesswoman, said she booked her flights two weeks ago, and the company had time to inform passengers well in advance that flights would be cancelled.

The last-minute decision to ditch operations was a “sign of bad management”, she said.

Another passenger, Lafras Moolman from Johannesburg, said they were told at the boarding gate that the company was bankrupt.

“We knew nothing … now we are all stranded. There is no one from the company or the airport helping us, we are just fending for ourselves. They are a bunch of skelems and we are not going to see our money.”

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