The "dysfunctional" South African Airways needs a new CEO with an aviation background, Grant Back, chair of the SAA Pilots’ Association said in a statement on Monday.
He was reacting to the sudden resignation of Vuyani Jarana on the weekend.
"Mr Jarana did his best to turn SAA around under incredibly difficult circumstances," said Back. "We were supportive of his integrity, commitment and vision to right-size SAA and make it fit for purpose."
SAAPA is "deeply troubled" at reports that the CEO’s turn-around plan was "sabotaged internally and externally".
"In the end, the CEO was hobbled by inflexible and restrictive government policy as well as the board ad shareholder taking active roles in executive decision-making," commented Back.
"This was exacerbated by the SAA executive structure and an executive management team that had remained mostly unchanged since the Dudu Myeni era."
According to Back, Jarana’s resignation is a blow to the airline, but it is also an opportunity for the shareholder.
"Given the tight margins that airlines operate in, SAA needs a new CEO with an unrivalled understanding of the industry, it is imperative that the SAA board moves forward with the appointment of a fearless, non-political, independent CEO with a strong track record in the aviation sector," said Back.
"The last thing we need is a political appointee with no airline experience. When Rome is burning, one needs the best firefighters one can get."
He added that SAA cannot afford to have another CEO "undermined" by the management.
SAAPA is seeking a meeting with Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan to offer "constructive proposals" on the way forward.
"Everybody at the airline needs to work together to turn SAA around," said Back.