SAA's business rescue plan is set for delay number four

Is SAA coming back from the brink or not? As always with our struggling national carrier, it seems to continue to stumble from one drama to the next.

Earlier in the week there was a mixture of surprise and jubilation as the airline announced its planned domestic flight schedule for June. For many people, who believed the carrier to be dead-and-buried in all but formal announcement, this was an exciting moment.

But the announcement, made on Tuesday 26 May, soon turned out to be yet another disappointment. The airline's business rescue practitioners Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, who are in charge of salvaging something from the wreckage of SAA's finances, stepped in and said the plan was grounded "until SAA has a better sense of what the Level 3 lockdown means in terms of domestic air travel".

Business rescue plan not presented

Then on Friday, 29 May there was another disappointment for those hoping for an SAA revival of some kind when Messrs Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana failed to present their scheduled rescue plan, which has already been delayed three times.

According to Reuters, the administrators have asked for a new deadline of June 8 so they can consult with creditors, employees and the government. "If the delay in publication is approved, they will start those talks on June 1, they (the administrators) said in the letter dated May 28," the news agency reported.

No meeting scheduled as yet

The Daily Maverick, in an article published on Friday, said the latest delay has yet to be approved by creditors – including commercial banks, aircraft lessors and others, who are owed more than R6-billion by SAA. A meeting with creditors to discuss the request is yet to be scheduled.

"Dongwana and Matuson said they needed more time to consult with SAA's affected parties, including the government (the sole shareholder of the airline), more than 5 000 workers and creditors," the publication stated.

"A sharp difference of opinion between the rescue practitioners and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on how to rescue SAA has been a significant factor in the delays."

While the administrators are advocating an orderly wind-down of the current SAA operation, the minister is working on a parallel plan for a restructured airline. He has been at loggerheads with the administrators, saying they should not make a move towards liquidating the carrier when there are many alternatives that could still be explored.