SAA pilot base in Cape Town safe - for now

Business rescue practitioners have, at least for the moment, put a moratorium on any plans to close South African Airways' Cape Town pilot base. 

Captain Grant Back, chairperson of the SAA Pilots' Association told Fin24 on Friday that SAA had been intending to close its pilot base in Cape Town. SAAPA had protested against this to SAA management last year, as the airline's own figures showed that closing the Cape Town base would not guarantee savings for SAA.

With SAA sticking to its guns, whilst keeping the cabin crew base open, the pilots appealed against what they regarded as an "illogical" decision.

SAAPA, therefore, recommended to the airline's business rescue practitioners that any closure would be premature until an independent check of the SAA decision was undertaken and the final plan on the restructuring was completed, according to Back.

"The BRPs have therefore, for now, put a moratorium on closing the Cape Town base. It would only be considered once the business rescue plan has been submitted," said Back.

He explained that closing the Cape Town pilot base would mean that pilots flying very early flights out of and very late flights into Cape Town would result in far higher hotel costs for SAA as Johannesburg-based crew would have to overnight in Cape Town.

"Having pilot bases away from a main base is common practice around the world and Mango, Airlink and SA Express all have a Cape Town Pilot base," said Back.

He added that SAAPA has had some very positive engagements with the BRPs. Back said that the two most critical steps needed are for R2bn in financing to come through and for SAA to bring in experienced, capable and qualified management to restore passenger confidence and enable the rescue to succeed.

Earlier on Friday it was confirmed that SAA is able to pay employees' salaries for January, news that was met with relief after concerns that this would not be possible.

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