Border-Kei Business Chamber wants answers from SAA over cancelled services

OCTOBER 13, 2016

The Border-Kei Business Chamber on Thursday said that it is pressing for a "rational explanation" from South African Airways (SAA), which also operates Mango, about their recent withdrawal of services to East London - most notably early morning and late afternoon flights, causing "unease and panic" locally.

"I will only reflect facts that we do know, and not speculate on matters we do not know," said Les Holbrook. Executive Director at the Border-Kei Business Chamber, adding;

  1. South African Express act as agents for South African Airways on most but not all flights between OR Tambo and East London.
  2. Passengers will recognise that over three years more and more flights especially to Johannesburg have been down-sized, to smaller aircraft, which SAX operate. However these flights are still controlled by SAA.
  3. The flights to Cape Town and Durban are operated by SAX exclusively
  4. Flights to Port Elizabeth are operated by SA Airlink – separately owned and operated

He said that over the last five months, "mostly SAX have been dropping or cancelling flights and also arriving and departing late, often causing considerable inconvenience to business and leisure passengers. This trend seemed to be worsening where in July, over seventy flights were affected (one way or another)".

"Because of this poor service, the Chamber requested and met with management of SAX – on the 16th August in East London
The explanation was detailed and refers back to a time in April when the airline was suspended for 48 hours due to operational circumstances.

"Since then they have struggled to recover and get back to full operational service. Oversubscribed services and limited resources caused them to charter other aircraft to meet obligations. All of which have resulted in the airline no longer being 'optimal', said Holbrook.

Present Day

Holbrook said that because of the high cost of charter and an ongoing struggle to remain viable or profitable, SAX have announced the suspension of a number of flights currently operated by them – until further notice.

"Furthermore, they say that SAA and Mango will assist with stranded passengers and passengers without flights. These 'suspended' flights will affect the East London / Jhb route as well as the Port Elizabeth / Jhb and Cape Town / Dbn. It is correct to say that exacerbating the situation two-fold is the loss of mission critical flights upon which most local business rely," he described.
The reality

"SAA and Mango will not rescue East London and it is hard to conceive how SAX can justify simply, unilaterally and summarily, stranding East London in this manner," said Holbrook.

"We therefore call on SAX to explain without all the clever use of language, to tell passengers when the service will be reinstated and how business is expected to emerge unaffected?
"Rest assured that Chamber will press for a solution. Unfortunately though, it could take quite some time."