14 February 2013

South Africa: 'South African Airways Crisis May Negatively Affect Its Services'

South African Airways (SAA) late last year experienced a serious management crisis that saw its then Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Siza Mzimela, resign with eight of the airline's board members and two general managers.

Air Transport Magazine recently quoted SAA chairman and acting CEO, Vuyisile Kona to have said, "SAA is currently focused on preparing its business and turnaround plan".

SAA needs to have a stable management because it is handling assets worth billions and 58 aircraft, said Kona. The airline put the swathe of departures down to turbulence of a temporary nature.

He said SAA has also set up a committee to find a new CEO before February elapses to tackle management instability. This management turbulence is threatening quality services in the airline as their Nigeria operation is already showing poor indicators.

Recently, the airline had series of delays in its flights take off at Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.

A forthnight ago, a SAA flight to Johannesbourg was delayed for at least 50 minutes and a day later, there was a 40 minutes delay, with passengers expressing frustration, Daily Trust learnt. Operational challenges may not end just yet.

The management crisis may have also affected it in the way they recently picked a ground handler for their operations. The sudden change in ground handling, which some observers say was below acceptable standard in the industry, may also have contributed to mar its smooth operations.

Before an airline engages a grand handler, it would normally send a request for proposal (RFP), to all the grand handlers. SAA did send the RFP but after they did, they failed to do facilities inspection on all the ground handlers as it is the tradtion before picking the preferred bidder. The inspection visit was only sent to Sachol rather than both Sachol and Nacho, our correspondent learnt.

Sachol was subsequently awarded the contract but observers say the management crisis may have contributed to the anomaly in awarding the contract, though Sachol may be equally competent to handle SAA ground operations.

"When they changed ground handlers, the first flight that the new ground handler Sachol handled was two Fridays ago. Because it was a new terrain for them and because the capacity needed was huge, the flight was delayed for 50 minutes. The Saturday that followed, it was delayed for 40 minutes" an aviation worker told our correspondent on conditions of anonymity.

It does appear the contract was forced on Sachol, he noted. Before now, Nacho has been handling SAA since 1999. Nahco handled the ground handling activities, RAMP, baggage handling and cargo handling businesses before they lost the contract to Sachol.

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