Bafana Bafana are still on track to return home to South Africa following their 2-0 defeat against Ghana at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium in Ghana on Thursday.
This follows concerns that the team might be stuck in Accra, as the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the SA Cabin Crew Association announced that they would ground all SAA planes on Friday.
The two unions, representing more than 3 000 staff members at SAA, have said they would go on strike on Friday to protest against plans to fire 944 employees, and the carrier's failure to meet their pay demands, Fin24 reported.
Sowetan reported that the national soccer team's trip back to SA was clouded in uncertainty as SAA had cancelled nearly all its domestic‚ regional and international flights scheduled for Friday and Saturday as the embattled airline faces the "mother of all strikes" by unions.
South Africa needs to return home to face Sudan at Orlando Stadium on Sunday in a match of great importance, after Sudan won their opening match against Sao Tome and Principe 4-0, Sport24 reported.
Acting South African Football Association (Safa) chief executive officer Gay Mokoena told Sowetan they are crossing their fingers that Bafana will be able to return to South Africa in time to face the Sudanese.
"As part of Plan B‚ we may have to look at Ethiopian Airlines because they have a flight coming to South Africa on Friday‚" said Mokoena.
But on Friday, Flight SA210 from Accra to Johannesburg was still on course to take off at 09:35 and land in Johannesburg at 17:25, according to Flightstats.
Bafana Bafana travel to Accra after the match and will fly back home in the morning. Expected to land in Johannesburg at 17h25 tomorrow— Bafana Bafana (@BafanaBafana) November 14, 2019
According to the unions, SAA is offering a 5.9% wage increase to be paid from March 2020. Unions want an 8% wage increase across the board, to be paid on December 13, 2019.
The unions say their members shouldn't have to pay the price for years of mismanagement and misappropriation of the airline's funds, and that alternative solutions need to be sought.
South Africa's unemployment rate is more than 29%, the highest in 11 years.
The airline has asked passengers who had booked to travel on all its domestic, regional and international flights on Friday and Saturday, not to turn up at airports, but instead to follow the airline's travel policy to exercise their rights following the cancellation of flights because of industrial action.
If all goes well, Bafana Bafana will face Sudan on Sunday. Kick-off is at 15:00.
- Compiled by Riaan Grobler