SAA ultra-long flights unsafe: Satawu

2011-05-04 16:35

Johannesburg - Ultra-long flights to New York by SA Airways show "a flagrant disregard" for the safety of passengers and crew members, the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union said on Wednesday.

"Satawu condemns the exemption granted to SAA to operate ultra-long flights," said spokesperson Zenzo Mahlangu in a statement.

He expressed Satawu's "disappointment and fury" at the South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the department of transport for authorising SAA's direct flights from South Africa to New York.

Mahlangu said that these flights exceeded the allowable period for safe operation of flights, known as the flight and duty period.

SAA granted exemption

The CAA granted SAA exemption from this period, on condition that the flight safety training manual be evaluated and approved, and that proof of fair flight rostering practices was supplied.

Satawu said that the latter had not been met.

"We will vigorously campaign for the nullification of that irregular exemption granted in favour of SAA," Mahlangu said.

Mahlangu said that Satawu believed that corruption and collusion could be behind the exemption.

SAA's spokesperson Dileseng Koetle responded, saying that the airline "strongly rejected" these suggestions and that they were unfounded.

Full compliance

"SAA would not undertake any operation that would put its customers at risk. Our decision to operate directly from Johannesburg to New York from 1 May 2011 was in full compliance with CAA regulations," she said.

This decision was undertaken to cater for customers who preferred to take a direct flight and had involved over 12-months of pre-planning before the new flight was undertaken.

"...The implementation of this route is in line with global market trends, and keeps the airline competitive with other international premier airlines that have respected safety records...," Koetle said.

She said that the flights would contribute to South Africa's, and the continent's, long-term economic growth.

SAA was open to discuss Satawu's concerns, Koetle said.

Comment from the CAA and the department of transport could not immediately be obtained.

  • Shivermetimb - 2011-05-04 16:51

    And what exactly do these geniuses know about the subtleties of flying?

      World Traveler - 2011-05-04 17:23

      They fly kites regularly! - 2011-05-04 17:36

      They fly off at the mouth

      G-spotWizard - 2011-05-24 14:31

      Satawu is right, this flight is unsafe because an old and fuel inefficient air craft (Airbus A340-300) is used. SAA should buy modern and fuel efficient air craft for long haul flights namely the twin engine Boeing 777-300ER which is used by leading carriers like Emirate and Qatar

  • Robbie - 2011-05-04 16:51

    Direct flights are a long awaited need!

      Shistirrer - 2011-05-04 17:02

      Good!!! No more being stuck for 2 hours at a time in that shithole called Dakar...

      M - 2011-05-04 17:07

      Hear hear about Dakar!!!

      Buzzbar - 2011-05-04 17:15

      If the earth were a human, Dakar is where they would insert the pipe for an enema! (Personal experience talking here)

      NowOrNever - 2011-05-04 17:24

      Also had a route through Dakar. Had to wait 6 hours due to mechanical break down of the plane. Those complaining do so only because Dakar is the ideal hub to remove or place contraband onto the US bound plane.

  • willieman - 2011-05-04 16:51

    Is the safety been compromised here.Are we on track for another Heidleberg

      Graeme - 2011-05-04 17:03

      That would be Helderberg

      patch - 2011-05-04 17:39

      MaLemmer - 2011-05-04 17:40

      SAA are not the first to do ultra long haul. Satawu and their folowers are just lazy, and don't want to work! Replace them with those who have been through a proper selection process.

  • willieman - 2011-05-04 16:57

    Who is telling the truth here? CAA,SAA or SATAWU

      MaLemmer - 2011-05-04 17:42

      I don't think the pilots would do something that was not safe and legal, so draw your own conclusion. Has SATAWU ever told the truth?

      David - 2011-05-04 18:17

      @MaLemmer. exactly. Its the useless CD's who want the stop so they can park off for a few days and get extra allowances. What is a CD, the ones with the rather large rear ends who when pushing the trolley, their backsides hit seat C then seat D as they negotiate their way down the asle

      Anon - 2011-05-04 18:45

      No!! They are called the alphabet hostesses!! They hit all the seats along the aisles from the beginning of "cattle class all the way back"

      kryses - 2011-05-04 20:16

      @ David== how right you are. Its either that or you get a rear in the face when they deal with the person on the other side of the isle>>> not fun at all!!

      ebdg3000 - 2011-05-05 08:55

      To be fair to the cabin crew, the flight is long and they do have to monitor certain safety concerns, i.e. mainly passengers - the very people that are 'flying off at the mouth' here. You should also keep in mind that a crew member doesn't just rock up on an aircraft and start working - they sign on a few hours before the flight, and so if add up all this time, it does make for a long day/night. Where do any of you that have made negative comments ever work up to 20 hours on a regular basis? And yes, MaLemmer, pilots wouldn't do anything unsafe - that's why they have 100% In-flight relief, i.e. 2 flight deck crews. Direct flights are certainly to be welcomed from a passengers perspective, and they have been done before from New York and Miami to Jnb and Cape Town. The solution for the cabin crew is in-flight relief - larger crew.

      michaelx - 2011-05-24 12:02


  • MyxComment - 2011-05-04 16:58

    Choice, everybody has a choice. Nobody is forcing anybody to use this service. Typical unions, nothing better to do than stick their noses in everywhere.

  • camelthief - 2011-05-04 17:03

    Why would the union be bothering about this? Just because their cabin crew members would have to work longer hours perhaps, or they're losing out on a nice stopover in Miami?

      ebdg3000 - 2011-05-05 08:48

      camelthief, when last did SAA fly to Miami? Get your facts straight before making defamatory comments about disciplines you obviously know nothing about.

  • JP - 2011-05-04 17:06

    Carriers the world over operate these kinds of ultra long distance flights - many of them with 2 engine aircraft which in my opinion are less safe than the 4 engine variety being operated by SAA. The issue here is not safety but the union's attempt to get SAA to compensate their lazy and unprofessional cabin crew for the few extra hours of sleep they will be taking in the crew rest area.

      Anon - 2011-05-04 18:01

      Yes, JP, I agree, and that is why we don't fly SAA, but rather Etihad, Emirates,BA,Lufthansa or Ethiopian Airlines. The SAA cabin crew are the worst ever!!Overweight,incompetent etc!!!!

  • neilza - 2011-05-04 17:09

    ive had a very happy 14 hour flight before. Zenzo Mahlangu is prob upset because he hasnt set foot in an airplane before. And anyways, for long flights there always extra crew allowing for them to rest

      neilza - 2011-05-04 17:11

      oh and it looks like they run out of ideas for there next toi toi

  • M - 2011-05-04 17:11

    The cabin crew and pilots do get to sleep, even on the Delta flights. The cabin crew and pilots even sleep on the flights to London. I think this has more to do with the cabin crew having to do as little as possible for the highest wage possible and absolutely zilch to do with safety.

  • My2Cents - 2011-05-04 17:11

    I fail to understand how cutting two hours of flight time and eliminating those retarded security checks on hand luggage on the ground in Dakar compromises passenger safety. If anything it enhances it because we get there faster and have to deal with SAA for 2 hours less. Even more stupid is that the flight has been operating non-stop on the way back from JFK for years and no one has raised a peep. SATAWU whining because the crew don't get to switch in Dakar so they have to work for 14 hours non-stop, probably for the same pay. Why the hell not? The flight to Sydney is the same duration and the Qantas crew do it with a smile. F*k you lazy ass SATAWU. Stop pretending to speak for passengers, you care about your rude, incompetent SAA crew only.

  • maseratifitt - 2011-05-04 17:16

    Flying over oceans should be banned. This type of travel should only be undertaken by wind driven ships. We are burning up too much fuel, too fast.

      patch - 2011-05-04 17:42

      Sailing over oceans should be banned. This type of travel should only be undertaken by unicorn powered carts. We are using up too many winds, too fast.

  • Oryx_ZA - 2011-05-04 17:16

    only issue of have with this.....imagine spending the 14 hours on SAA...i can barely stand a 6 hours

  • Helen - 2011-05-04 17:18

    Those ultra long flights on a South African plane, an Airbus at that, spell disaster. The decision makers do not know what they're doing.

      World Traveler - 2011-05-04 17:32

      What is wrong with an AirBus? Damn sight better to have three seats in the center than four! Viva AirBus. They also pay the best bribes.

      patch - 2011-05-04 17:44

      Airbus are not South African chum. I hope that you were eluding to the planes being owned by SAA (rented more likely). I also severely doubt the legitimacy of your claim that the decision makers (the civil AVIATION authority) do not know what they are doing. You, on the other hand...

      fpstevens - 2011-05-04 18:48

      Since you are obviously more informed than the mere plebs who made the decision to approve this flight, not to mention the plethora of international carriers who have for years been offering ultra long flights such as New York to Jo'burg, you should start your own carrier.

      ebdg3000 - 2011-05-05 09:24

      fpstevens, what plethora of carriers have been offering direct flights on the NYK-JNB route, for years??

      fpstevens - 2011-05-06 16:54

      @ebdg3000, I guess reading comprehension isn't your strong point. I said "not to mention the plethora of international carriers who have for years been offering ultra long flights such as New York to Jo'burg" in other words there are many carriers who offer ultra-long flights to various destination, the term "such as" implies that I'm referring to flights similar to NYK-JNB and not that they all fly from NYK to JNB. The Center for Asia Pacific Aviation claims that Ultra-Long flights have been common since 1990, Ultra long flights that depart from NYK include. NYK-SIN 9000+ Miles NYK-DEL 7000+ Miles NYK-AUH 6000+ Miles NYK-TYO 6000+ Miles etc. All of the above are considered Ultra-Long and there are 100+ other routes flown by carriers from all over the world that are considered Ultra-Long.

  • Rod - 2011-05-04 17:25

    I cannot understand the problem now. SAA used to opperate a direct flight ti NY in the 1990s

      ebdg3000 - 2011-05-05 09:22

      That was on 747's, the crew compliments were bigger. That is their solution to this impasse: boost crew compliment allowing for increased rest on flight, i.e. 50/50.

  • Monica - 2011-05-04 17:25

    Obviously; the planes that they use is not safe for long distance flying. Funds for maintenace has gone in the pockets of the Ministers and their crew!

      Anon - 2011-05-04 18:32

      You don't know what you are talking about. If you are uninformed don't comment!! Read about ETOPS, available on Google. All airlines flying into EU and the USA are subject to certain regulations regarding safety etc. This is why certain airlines,and ONLY those that do comply with FAA and EASA are allowed into the EU, USA, Asia, OZ, Japan and airlines like ZimAir are not!!

      LeezS - 2011-05-04 21:47

      "Yes this is why they have regular accidents", when last did SAA have an accident? MMmmm Helderberg 1987 .... And oh lets think about that, it was the government then that was up to something.

      ebdg3000 - 2011-05-05 09:19

      Good point Leez. Monica, you is[sic] really dof, hey?

  • Slapper - 2011-05-04 17:27

    Of course these clowns would know better than IATA and Air Transport Safety Boards? There are many flights that are much longer. These clowns need to stick to local Mini bus transport and sort that out. It is possibly the most dangerous form of transport in the World.

  • Kakabooi - 2011-05-04 17:28

    Thanks SATAWU. Your concerns are noted and we will fly anything else except SAA then.

  • - 2011-05-04 17:33

    They fly off at the mouth.

  • The-Bear - 2011-05-04 17:48

    I stopped flying SAA in the early 90's. I sent two letters to them after horrendous flights (rude cabin crew) and swore never to fly with them again. There are loads of airlines who treat their passengers better! The cabin crew could do with some training and a lesson in manners (perhaps a flight on another airline to see how things are done, middle eastern, madonna or the wonderful one from the far east - not naming them). As I now work in the UK, I have loads of options to return home with. SAA and BA won't last long at this rate, they forget the passengers just change allegiance.

      HowardX - 2011-05-04 18:45

      Yip, try and get any service out of the crew on a long haul flight after "bedtime" and you'll be rudely told not to disturb them, and kindly help yourself from the galley.

      ebdg3000 - 2011-05-05 09:26

      Howard, sounds like you need help for that drinking problem, small steps, but the first is the most difficult ...

  • Drewster - 2011-05-04 17:50

    As a pilot that will be flying this route I am confident that all the required policies are in place. I have received guidelines (developed from other Carriers experiences in ULH operations) on how best to deal with fatigue management. SAA has maintained one of the worlds best safety records in it's 75 yr history (Helderberg included) and they wouldn't embark on such an operation without the required planning.

  • 106SA - 2011-05-04 18:15

    More genius from the school of DOOS!!!!

      Anon - 2011-05-04 18:51

      NO!!! You can't say DOOS, you can say "BOX=DOOS in Afrikaans" or if you know the "old" SA number plate system for all cars registered by province and town "D-Lindley-S = D OO S" OO = Lindley in the Orange Free State!!

  • HowardX - 2011-05-04 18:20

    If the problem is the "duty period" of the crew, then I'm really not sure what the problem is since SAA is the only airline I've ever been on where most of the crew don airline branded pyjamas and take turns to go to bed in a luxurious sleeper cabin overnight. This is certainly what routinely happens on the Hong Kong flight and always leaves me a little gobsmacked. Air Malaysia, Cathay Pacific, Air Singapore and Thai Air crews in contrast are in attendance for the duration of the flight, but on SAA if you want so much as cup of water after dinner is served and the lights are out you have to go and get it from the galley yourself!

      Anon - 2011-05-04 18:52

      Can I help myself to a drink, beer as well?

      Anon - 2011-05-04 19:00

      No wonder SAA runs at a LOSS= everybody drinks as much when they want to, when the alphabet hostesses go for their beauty sleep!!

      Drewster - 2011-05-04 20:57

      It would be illegal if the crews of other carriers didn't rest during a 13 hr flight. There are ICAO rules which govern such things. These airlines are also members of IATA would never allow crew to operate a 13 hr flight with no rest. I fear you are mistaken in this case. If you are right I wouldn't want to be onboard one of those airlines if there was an emergency on landing and the crew hadn't rested during the flight.

      HowardX - 2011-05-05 09:02

      The difference on SAA is that they seem to go to bed en masse and leave only one attendant overnight at any point who is usually only interested in servicing business class. And yes, I've helped myself to drinks from the galley in their absence.

      ebdg3000 - 2011-05-05 09:17

      Howard, you are so gobsmacked that you don't know what you're talking about. All airlines are governed by F&D - it is an IATA requirement and all have crew rests for long haul flights - and why shouldn't they be comfortable? I think it would be really stupid if they weren't - how would you design the crew rest, Howard? And, wow, you actually had to go to the galley yourself?! Jeez, Howard, that must've been terrible! Careful how you place that lable of being lazy ...

  • BugsyJamesy - 2011-05-04 18:58

    I Thought SAA were dead.

      Anon - 2011-05-04 19:09

      Not dead, they need their sleep-on flights= only place they can get any sleep!!

  • Agent - 2011-05-04 19:07

    So here they are now trying to stuff the next thing in the country. It is a sorry state when the tail wags the dog like with most large companies in SA, and all of them on the way down.

  • cgtours - 2011-05-04 20:01

    They are cutting cvosts so that the EXECUTIVES and SENIOR BOARD MEMBER AND SENIOR STAFF( WITH NO AIRLINE EXPERIENCE BY THE WAY!!AA/BEE APPOINTMENTS-18 years ago NONE had even really had any insight or flown on LEGAL Passengers Aircrafts!- that is a FACT!)So NO second crew and Pilots on board -(saving Salaries on QUALIFIED PEOPLE FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT GOT A CLUE, TO HAVE MORE!) SAA has cost the TAXPAYERS BILLIONS, should be privatised and stop get exemptions and perks FORM THE ANC gOVERNMENT TO PROTECT THEIR CRONIES THEY HAVE EMPLOYED AND PLACED THERE AND GET QUALIFIED AIRLINE PEOPLE TO RUN IT AND stop it BEING PROPPED UP and COMPETE. Now they are jeopardising Passengers safety with excemptions! I do not Book SAA AT ALL.! Certainly not long haul. The service is bad, the staff lacking and now at International Airports under suspicion for running drugs as what was prooved. - so a SAA flight when it lands at any International Airport is already under extra extra Scrutiny!. and the Passengers subjected to this as well and it takes MUCH longer for luggage to arrive as it is ALL xrayed for Drugs and our South African Passports have even been forged/sold to and used by Terrorists and so, So yes,! what was a Wonderful Airline,with a safety record next to none and a Reputation in comparison to the best in the world ,is also now no more! NOW SAA boasts voted best Airline in AFRICA_= MOST AFRICAN AIRLINES ARE BANNED FROM THEIR AIRPORTS IN THE EURPEAN UNION AND AMERICAS.! idiots.

  • gizzy - 2011-05-04 20:10

    What are they on about. SAA staff are the pits and do nothing on the flights. My last SAA flight was just that. We left JHB at 10.10pm and by 11.15pm these lazy louts were on their way to bed. They rushed through the meals and were very irritated by customers that wanted anything extra. First time in all my flying that I saw such a lazy bunch of idiots. And to top it they were up and down the isles with their pyjamas on (SAA tracksuits). Some of those idiots from the union should get onto one of those long haul flights and see how little those lazy louts do.

      HowardX - 2011-05-05 09:05

      I concur. On long haul flights they make it obvious that their priority is to serve the meal so they can go to bed. On most other airlines you don't even realise that the crew is taking shifts to go sleep as it is done professionally and without disruption to the service.

      ebdg3000 - 2011-05-05 09:10

      Gizzy, why would you want the crew to drag the service out? I hate sitting there for hours with the mealtray on my table, like with Emirates. And why would you want the crew to go to bed in their uniforms? It is compulsory for them to split the crew and take a break on long haul flights, so why shouldn't they be comfortable? I actually prefer SAA and the very prompt way they get into the aisles with the service after take-off. When I want something else, I get up and go and get it from the galley - good for circulation and preventing DVT. you sound like a real passenger from hell - or a frustrated, reincarnated slave-owner ...

  • Hugh - 2011-05-04 20:51

    These geniuses know nothing. In the good old days of flying we used to fly Jhb-NY direct three times a week. That was in a Jumbo.

  • lala08 - 2011-05-04 21:19

    as an ex cabin attendant living in the middle east, I can say that standard aviation rules will apply. where the crew are entitled to a "crew rest" with flights longer than a certain period. while the one half of the crew is resting the other half will work and vice versa. This will be the same with the captain and first officers.......

  • Paul Harris - 2011-05-05 06:58

    "...other international premier airlines..." is the implication that SAA is also a premier airline?

  • SlapTjip - 2011-05-05 08:18

    There is nothing wrong with such long flights. Flight crew are fully capable of flying for such long periods. These flights are conducted with state of the art aircraft with a crew cabin where flight crew could take a rest, infact it is mandatory for flight crew to take turns resting during the flight. Another piece of evidence that COSATU would stand in the way of any constructive growth and development wanting to turn South Africa into one huge kraal.(Airbus 340 Captain)

  • Dries - 2011-05-05 08:30

    Careful with belittling this real issue of flight Safety. As an aviation safety specialist I have ample records to show that pilot fatigue is more and more the cause for adverse events. There are very well-founded limits on crew duty time with very good reasons for these having come into existence. Looking at the official giving the motivation I see only $$$$ in it. The way to manage such flight and duty times is to have extra crews on board (extra captain, first officer, duplicate cabin crew) which means 10 seats that are unpaid for AND a fair amount in subsistence and travel costs for these people. AND the flights backh? SAA simply do NOT have the experienced crews to manage this without unacceptable risk. If it took them a full year to work around the basic problem I am greatly worried, and a further resolve that my decision ten years ago to stop flying SAA has been valid. There is a another issue which is aircraft fuel endurance. Flying to New York is against the upper air currents and the congestion at the New York international airports are almost frightening at the peak times for landing, so the holding patterns take up time. Not every flight will be at risk but some will be. If all goes well,all goes well, but in aviation we know there will be days of crew fatigue coupled with some deferred defect in the aircraft having an interaction with other systems and very strong jetstreams causing low ground speed and lots of fuel consumed. SAA, do NOT do this!

      ebdg3000 - 2011-05-05 09:32

      If I remember correctly flights from the USA used to be direct, but to the USA had to land on Sal because of winds and earth's rotation. Flight plans from the USA were actually routed to Windhoek, but would be changed en route when it was known that it would be safe to continue to Cape Town/Jnb, i.e. enough fuel.

  • Jonas_Barbar - 2011-05-05 08:40

    Off topic... Am I the only one battling to post here? My password is 'forgotten' and my comments take forever to load.

  • tbone - 2011-05-05 09:56

    The CAA can not override the rules of IATA, which defines safe practices for any kind of situations. The rules set down by IATA are very conservative. If the CAA does give the go-ahead for such flights, security concerns have been addressed to and fall within acceptable norms as set out by IATA. This is a labour issue using safty as a precursor to wip up sympathy! On the other hand, does SAA compensate the staff for the long hours or maybe no that the flights are shortened, the staff is getting paid less and they dont like this? But this is not a safty issue!

  • Ashen - 2011-05-05 14:48

    I don't understand as to why it is unsafe for SAA to fly non-stop from Johannesburg to New York. The airline operates one of the longest range aircraft in the world (Airbus A340-600). This aircraft is capable of flying well beyond 16 hours, which is the current flight time for the non-stop flight. When taking the MTOW, fuel capacities into consideration, there shouldn't be a problem. Further more, operating non-stop service really satisfies passengers. SAA being one of the safest airline in the world - I'm very confident that SAA wouldn't operate a non-stop flight if it wasn't safe

  • Zebelon - 2011-05-05 21:17

    Wonder whether s.a.t.a.w.u considered the additional expence that will be incurred if there were to be stoppages along the way.

  • - 2011-05-24 12:19

    Firstly -since when does SATAWU have the mandate to speak for us passengers - they certainly didnt ask me;clearly they are only interested in their members. Secondly there is nothing new about this; my first ever flight to the States was per SAA in 1983 and it was direct JHB to New York. it wasnt a big deal then and I dont believe its a big deal now. The JHb - Oz flight seems to be much longer!

  • flyswat - 2011-05-24 12:39

    Gee they are sticklers for the progress of their OWN people!! OK, keep us in the dark ages or 3rd world. Thats what you want innit?

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