Johannesburg - Budget airline Skywise’s repeated flight delays and cancellations in the recent past have put it on the radar of the Air Services Licensing Council, which wants answers about the airline’s financial position.
The council’s director for air transport, Vuwani Ndwamato, told City Press that, as a regulatory body, it would meet Skywise’s top brass to explain its situation next month.
Ndwamato said that “in his opinion”, cash flow problems could have “safety implications” and could expose consumers to losses if paid-up tickets could not be refunded when, or if, flights are grounded.
Skywise interim CEO Tabassum Qadir admitted that the airline had been contacted by the council. “We will share with them that we are still a going concern.” Asked whether there were safety concerns, she said: “Not at all.”
Qadir was made interim CEO after Irfan Pardesi, who was appointed on August 11, resigned suddenly earlier this month. Skywise said “he was not able to take the pressure of the aviation business”.
His personal assistant said he couldn’t be contacted for comment.
Allegations that co-CEO Johan Borstlap had also resigned were denied by Qadir.
Skywise launched earlier this year, but is apparently threatening to join the aviation scrapheap of 10 other budget airlines that have failed in the local skies – including 1time, Velvet Sky and Nationwide.
It had a plane grounded in Johannesburg last week, allegedly for repeatedly failing to pay its lease to the plane’s owner, Vernon Bricknell, former CEO of Nationwide. Bricknell told City Press he’d had problems getting paid by Skywise from “day one”.
“I’ve had enough,” he said, adding that he was still owed a lot of money, but didn’t “want to elaborate”. He was scathing about Skywise’s ability to operate an airline and questioned how it had got a licence.
Bricknell claimed he had to “run around getting them a spare tyre” recently. He said a plane was grounded because two fuses needed replacing at a cost of R36 000. “They couldn’t pay for them.”
But a furious Qadir vehemently denied this and said: “I’m surprised you’re relying on operational aviation information from the ex-CEO of the defunct Nationwide.”
Qadir also denied that Skywise had failed to come up with the cash it owed Bricknell, saying: “Not even one payment did we miss.”
When City Press contacted Bricknell the next day, though, the problem seemed to have been resolved. He said he’d agreed to let Skywise use the plane because “I felt sorry for them. I know they’re having trouble.”
It may not be so easy to placate the licensing council.