No reduction of Jozi/CT, Jozi/Durban flights within goup - SAA

Cape Town - Despite South African Airways (SAA) announcing changes to its flights between Johannesburg and Durban and Johannesburg and Cape Town, in practice this does not mean a reduction in flights, spokesperson Tlali Tlali told Fin24 on Tuesday.

"From a group perspective, the decision does not in any way amount to reduction of flights," Tlali emphasised.
 
"Collectively, our two airline brands (SAA and Mango) continue to offer the same number of flights."

He said SAA decided to offer a product that matches demand and responds to competition in the domestic market.
 
"SAA, as a full service carrier, will still serve the domestic market with reduced frequencies that match the demand," he said.

"The intention is to optimise the utilisation of our airline brands in a manner that promotes efficiencies that will lead to financial sustainability."

Network changes

SAA announced in September and December last year that it and its low-cost subsidiary Mango plan to rationalise their route network for improved efficiencies and optimal aircraft utilisation through a revised airline brand schedule. The plan includes additional Mango-operated flights for the domestic market.

These network changes form part of the implementation of SAA's turnaround plan in an attempt to try and make the embattled state-owned airline financially sustainable.

Traditionally, SAA and Mango offered 200 return flights per week between Johannesburg and Durban and 278 return flights per week between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

"To enhance efficiencies and to provide more diverse offering to customers, whilst responding to demand, the two airline brands will ensure seamless implementation of the revised schedule with effect from 15 January 2018," SAA said in a statement in December.

Once fully implemented, Mango will operate 132 return flights on the Johannesburg - Durban route and 116 return flights on the Johannesburg - Cape Town route per week. SAA will operate 68 return flights between Johannesburg and Durban, and 162 return flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

“We have reviewed our offerings informed by performance, demand and market conditions. We are satisfied that the changes we introduce will be of mutual benefit to our customers and to the SAA Group. A commercially strong SAA Group offers customers improved efficiencies and schedule integrity,” SAA CEO, Vuyani Jarana said in the statement.

Mango flights will operate on Boeing 737-800s and SAA will discontinue operating Airbus A340-600s on the Johannesburg - Cape Town route.

Mauritius and Angola

Earlier in January, SAA also announced that it is enhancing its offering on the Mauritius route.
 
Wide-bodied aircraft operations will replace the use of narrow body aircraft. Frequencies have also been adjusted on some days on the Mauritius flights in line with SAA's objective of efficient utilisation of aircraft and as part of its network remediation, according to Tlali.

Last week SAA announced a code-share agreement with TAAG Angola Airlines. As part of the extended agreement, SAA started code-sharing with TAAG on their direct services between Johannesburg and Luanda and between Cape Town and Luanda effective from January 15.

In return, TAAG Angola Airlines will code-share with SAA on its direct services between Johannesburg and Luanda and will include Johannesburg and Harare, Johannesburg and Lusaka, and Johannesburg and Hong Kong in the near future.

At the end of October last year SAA adjusted its schedule on routes to Port Elizabeth and East London.

Financial woes

Although the revenue of SAA has improved in the second quarter, its year-to-date revenue shortfall was still at R879m, Parliament's standing committee on finance heard in November last year.

About R450m of the shortfall came from the domestic market, which has been impacted by growing popularity of low-cost airlines, causing SAA's domestic losses to increase.

At the same time, the state-owned airline's operating costs were in line with budget, but maintenance costs exceeded budget by R300m, while finance costs were reduced by R141m.  
 
SAA's chief financial officer Phumeza Nhantsi told the committee at the time that the airline's loss for the current financial year is expected to end up being more than R4bn. A large part thereof is expected to be a loss of about R2bn resulting from a board decision to return six leased narrow-bodied aircraft to their owners. The original decision of the board was to keep these aircraft in its fleet.

Only 9 of SAA's 64 aircraft are actually owned by the airline, SAA said in its presentation.

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