The struggles of strike-hit SAA

File: South African Airways is immediately suspending all international flights until the end of May due to the coronavirus pandemic.

File: South African Airways is immediately suspending all international flights until the end of May due to the coronavirus pandemic.


JOHANNESBURG - South African Airways (SAA) says its future hangs in the balance after its workers went on strike to demand higher wages and protest planned job cuts which forced the state-owned carrier to cancel all its flights.

SAA, which has not turned a profit since 2011 and is reliant on state bailouts, says the walkout will cost it R50-million per day.

Here is a brief history of SAA and details about its operations.


* 1934: Began operations after the government took over assets and liabilities of Union Airways and renamed it South African Airways.

* 1945: SAA introduced its first inter-continental service from Johannesburg with stops in Nairobi, Khartoum, Cairo, Castel Benito (Tripoli) and Bournemouth. The trip took 34-hours.

* 1986: Due to economic sanctions linked to apartheid, flights to New York were suspended in November 1986. The United States also withdrew from its landing rights in South Africa.

* 1997: SAA announced a new corporate identity with colours of South Africa's new rainbow national flag on its aircraft tail.

* 2000s: SAA entered into Africa's biggest jetliner deal by placing an order for 41 new Airbus aircraft for $3.5-billion.

* June 2019: CEO Vuyani Jarana resigns saying his turnaround strategy for the loss-making airline was being undermined by a lack of state funding and too much bureaucracy.

* September 2019: SAA says a government cash injection of R5.5-billion approved for the 2019/20 financial year is expected at the end of the month but it still needs more money.

* October 2019: SAA is open to outside investment and in talks with a number of potential partners, President Cyril Ramaphosa says.


* The SAA fleet comprises more than 54 aircraft, with Airbus and Boeing planes. Its partner airlines include Mango Airline, South African Express, Airlink and Codeshare Partners.


* Reported revenue of R30.7-billion in the 2016/17 financial year, compared to R30-billion a year earlier, with a loss of R5.6-billion. These are the most recent figures published.


SAA has debt of about R9.2-billion.


* SAA, which lost its place as the continent's biggest airline in the last decade, employs 5,752 employees.


* Johannesburg


* Carried 6.8-million passengers in 2016/2017.