South African Airways strike: 40,000 passengers’ travel plans wrecked by two-day walkout

Almost all flights have been cancelled – though some long-haul links have survived


Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Friday 15 November 2019 12:05 GMT
South African Airways is struggling
South African Airways is struggling (Getty/iStock)

As a two-day strike begins at South African Airways (SAA), 40,000 passengers have had their travel plans wrecked.

Members of the South African Cabin Crew Association and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa are taking industrial action in a dispute over pay and conditions.

SAA has told passengers not to turn up at airports in South Africa and worldwide.

Almost all flights have been cancelled, except for some of Friday’s international departures – including to Heathrow, Frankfurt and Munich.

Philip Saunders, SAA’s chief commercial officer, said: “Passengers are advised to follow our re-accommodation travel policy to exercise their rights when flights are cancelled.

“Customers are requested not to travel to their departure airports unless in possession of a rebooked itinerary.

“SAA continues to spare no effort to find solutions that accommodate the employee demands, safeguard the business and return operations to normal.”

The airline says: “Where possible, passengers will be rebooked onto flights operated by any of SAA’s Star Alliance partners to travel to their final destination with minimal disruption.”

It will offer full refunds to passengers who wish to cancel their travel plans, or allow re-booking until 31 October 2020.

Under European air passengers’ rights rules SAA must provide passengers booked from EU airports with alternative flights.

Travellers may also be able to claim €600 (£515) in cash compensation.

SAA has not published its financial results since 2017, when it lost £145m.

The state-owned airline is believed to be heavily lossmaking, with the strike costing an additional £3m per day.

Its chief executive, Vuyani Jarana, had vowed to transform SAA’s fortunes, saying he would “break the loss-making cycle and transform the airline into a viable and sustainable entity”.

But he resigned in June 2019, saying his strategy was being “systematically undermined”.

Mr Jarana has been replaced by Zuks Ramazia as acting CEO.

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