Several international passengers landing at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg say they had no idea that SAA had scrapped all domestic and regional flights and some international flights on Friday and Saturday.
42-year-old Rodrigo Izquierdo arrived from Sao Paulo, Brazil on Friday morning, expecting to make a connecting flight to Gaborone in Botswana.
"I had no idea [about flight cancellations]. I just arrived from Sao Paulo. I hope the airline gives me another flight," he told News24.
It was a similar experience for 21-year-old Jarrod Balcomb from Sydney, Australia. He told News24 that he had received no prior notification beforehand that his flight had been cancelled.
"We came through South Africa to go to Namibia for a safari and we were going to catch SA Airlines but they got the strike on so we are going through Air Namibia.
"It could have been worse but I think with those guys [Air Namibia] helping us out, we ended up getting a new flight really quickly," Balcomb said.
The South African Airways Cabin Crew Association (SACAA) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) served the airline with a strike notice for Friday.
The unions claim that 3 000 of their members will be participating, in the strike which was expected to start at 04:00 on Friday morning. Cabin crew, check-in staff and technical staff will be involved, reported Fin24.
SAA has 5 146 employees and earlier this week announced plans to retrench up to a fifth of their workers as it battles massive losses, which have piled up to R28bn.
The unions are protesting the planned retrenchments and unmet wage hike demands, while SAA's acting CEO Zuks Ramasia has warned that the airline, which is technically insolvent, may not be able to recover from the strike.