As a general aviation magazine SAA arguably gets more than its fair share of attention in our reports. But the hard truth is that this airline has cost the South African taxpayer around R50 billion in the past 20 years.
Hundreds of billions may be wasted by corrupt local authorities without much rancour, beyond a ‘This is Africa shrug’. But SAA is the repository of much of our collective first world hopes and dreams.
The (false) perception exists that proper countries have airlines, which is why so many African governments treat them as essential vanity projects and drive their populations into dumb penury for the sake of pointless flag waving. As I have to keep saying – no one cares about, or even sees, the flag of an airline anymore.
But for the South African general aviation community, SAA was the pinnacle of their aspirations. Almost all the starry-eyed young pilots starting out on a professional flying career eventually imagined themselves flying command on an SAA long haul airliner.
The airline’s wanton ruin by the destructive children who are incompetent cronies has been agonising to watch. And now the sad reality of the much hoped-for bailout by a strategic equity partner is slowly unravelling to reveal itself as once again the government forcing us to eat more of the shame old shit – just with a different flavour. ‘Deja poo’ indeed. The emperor has no clothes – the lessons are writ large
‘DEJA POO’ INDEED.
It is fraudulent of Pravin Gordhan to try make us believe that the new SAA can ever be profitable and not dependent on the fiscus for more bailouts. If he was honest, he would admit that imposing the burden of a transformation and development mandate on the airline is anathema to bottom line profitability. But he persists with the lie that the airline will be profitable. And because this lie is not sustainable, the airline will once again crash and burn.
I am not pessimistic enough to agree with those who say SAA will never fly again. The government says it has billions of rands to get the remains of the once proud airline back in the air. But to do that they have to resolve the pilots’ strike – and that is subject to the interminable pain of waiting for a reserved judgement to be handed down by the labour court.
The destruction of the livelihoods of 500 of South Africa’s best pilots will for ever be a blight on the attractiveness of piloting as a career. Those who may have dreamed of flying for the airlines will now seek jobs where they have more control over their destiny.
It is this destruction of the image of professional flying as a career that concerns us at SA Flyer. Already the younger generation does not view flying as an attractive career choice. This will make it even harder for the airline to attract quality young people.
I suppose the only good news is that the much anticipated pilot shortage is likely to be even greater.