SA Express free to fly after it paid some of its debt

Airports Company South Africa announced on Friday that it has lifted the suspension of SA Express after the airline made a “partial payment” of its R71m debt. 

The company’s aircraft were grounded on Wednesday as it faced mounting financial and operational woes.

“SA Express has now made a partial payment towards settling its debt to Airports Company South Africa with the balance expected on Monday,” Acsa said in a brief statement.

Acsa is owed R71m by SA Express, according to information tabled before the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises. Briefing the committee on Wednesday, SA Express interim CEO, Siza Mzimela, attributed the grounding of the airline to historic financial challenges.

The committee also heard that the state-owned airline faced a weak balance sheet, frozen credit lines, liquidity challenges, long outstanding debt and a significant monthly cash bill. 

“A number of contracts were also found in the system done via third parties, which resulted in additional costs to the airline,” read a statement. 

The airline was last year granted a R1.2bn government guarantee to help it navigate its financial challenges.

This is not the first time the troubled airline has had its wings clipped. The South African Civil Aviation Authority in May 2018 suspended the airline's Aircraft Maintenance Organisation certification and the Certificates of Airworthiness for nine of the 21 aircraft operated by the airline. SACAA cited non-compliance with safety measures for its decision. These were later reinstated. 

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