What is going on at SAA?



Industry stakeholders fear the radical change following the resignation of SAA’s former ceo, Siza Mzimela, could undo the airline’s favourable relationship with the trade. Siza resigned earlier this month citing misunderstandings with the carrier’s shareholders as the main reasons for her decision. Commercial gm, Theunis Potgieter, and legal and risk head, Sandra Coetzee, also tendered their resignations. This announcement came days before SAA was expected to report a financial loss of R1,25bn and merely a week after SAA board chair, Cheryl Carolus, and at least seven other board members resigned from their posts. Although the changes aren’t expected to have a direct effect on travel agents operationally, there is a sense of unease in the travel industry about what SAA’s future will bring. According to Will Puk, director of Travel Counsellors SA, the main concern for the moment is that the government might appoint a ceo who isn’t “an airline person”, which would inevitably lead to a drop in standards and affect passenger confidence. Rod Rutter, coo of XL Travel, fears there might be a radical change in policy, which could have a severe effect on the travel industry. He says: “The travel industry is a distribution channel for some 82% of business generated through the carrier. It is of concern that both the SAA board and senior executives have resigned simultaneously, indicating that government has pushed for a change in policy, which differs significantly from the current strategy.”

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