The South African aviation industry is a classic case of a state abusing its position as player, referee and spectator. Tapping into the treasury stock year after year, public airlines are bailed out to stay afloat, while private airline industry players are forced to survive on their shareholders’ funds, finding more stock or depleting them. their remaining liquidity reserves.

In many countries around the world, the pandemic-induced economic crisis has placed many airlines on the brink of collapse. While some could not survive, the governments of many countries have pledged to save their aviation industries by doing everything possible to help all participants on a pro rata basis.

But not here in South Africa. Instead of ensuring that registered South African airlines remain healthy through various options and interim assistance, the South African government has decided to deal only with their two defunct and perpetually loss-making airlines. (SAA and Mango), while placing the third small cousin of SA Express. on pasture.

Add to this backdrop, there is substantial evidence of bias on the part of some of the state’s oversight and management bodies, including the roles of ensuring safety, sustainability, accessibility and Convenience of flight are applied uniformly to all players in the industry. Among other things, these bodies ensure that all carriers are properly licensed, financially viable, and allowed to fly on certain routes with the required clearances to access various airports across the country.

You could be forgiven for believing that the regulations, rules and treatment of flight operations rooted in these various oversight bodies are applied relatively equally to ALL players in the aviation industry in South Africa. Yet they are not.

State airlines receive substantial credit from Airports Company SA (Acsa), but private airlines do not, which would be immediately tied up if they did not pay their landing, parking and passenger service charges. at Acsa. But this is not the case for Mango and SAA and, instead, they receive special credit treatment of these operating costs, until their debt is considered bad by Acsa.

Throw in this already lopsided playing field, the International Airline Services Council (IASC), a state entity that reports to the Department of Transportation and oversees the fair allocation of operating licenses for routes to and from the South Africa. In the event that a private airline should cease operations (for example, due to financial difficulties), and thus cease operating on certain routes – such as Johannesburg (OR Tambo) and Zanzibar for months – the demand for a state airline to resume the unserved route would have been considered by the IASC with little hesitation. But not the other way around.

Mango and SAA have ceased to operate a number of routes to and from SA for months, and yet, despite numerous requests from private entities for permission to use them, nothing is happening. Instead, SAA and Mango sit idle while the flying public, freight, tourism, and businesses that depend on these regional and international routes should simply absorb them. Think about the negative impact of this conduct on our economy. Jobs in tourism, freight forwarders, air services and many more are suffering from this irresponsible action.

It is probably more for convenience than coincidence that the Minister of Transport is very lethargic in his replacement of the outgoing board of directors of the IASC, which since April has been incompetent and unable to fulfill its mandate of approving the requests of these road licenses.

Regarding the conduct of another state watchdog, the South African Civil Aviation Authority (Sacaa), they were also found to be in default of their fair treatment which favors the state airline. A classic example is the recent treatment of CemAir in 2018/19, a small private airline whose fleet of planes was immobilized by Sacaa for several months, due to an airworthiness administration issue, which caused the ‘subject to appeal to the civil aviation authority. The result was against the state, overturning the grounding and calling the decision of the civil aviation authority “irrational, arbitrary, unreasonable and procedurally unfair”. The probability that such treatment will be inflicted on SAA or Mango by Sacaa is close to zero.

Predatory airlines

This favoritism towards state carriers is predatory and a worrying situation. One wonders how far they will go to allow the state to operate unfit aircraft or flight crew. Another more recent incident involved SAA Airbus flight 340-600 on 24e February to fly to Brussels and collect a pallet of vaccines. To enable this specific flight, Sacaa has bent a number of precautions and safety requirements to make it possible. In addition, they did not enforce their own rules which state that they will provide a preliminary report to the public within 30 days, regarding security incidents that occurred during flights.

Sacaa was not helpful in reporting a serious safety incident on this “vaccine” flight, which we suspect without sophisticated automation intervention this flight could have stalled and crashed in. lift-off. Sacaa remains a mom, however, would they do if it was a private airline? In a way I don’t think so.

The state often defends its position to keep bankrupt airlines afloat, on the basis of maintaining jobs. Yet it was state airlines that lost the most jobs during the economic crisis, while private companies that managed to avoid corporate bailouts did a remarkable job of retaining most of their employees. What the state does not want to recognize is that the jobs lost due to their airline shutdown are giving rise to new jobs created by competing airlines taking back the lost seats. In addition, SAA Technical could be privatized tomorrow, with its sale (partially or entirely) to the private sector, and the chances of its employees remaining employed in a growing and healthy company will be much more likely than if it remained in the private sector. SAA. to fold.

It would appear that this behavior by the state and its various actors is part of a larger ploy to make it more difficult to operate private airlines, thereby reducing competition in favor of lethargic state entities.

As a society, we need to be aware of the various elements that point to a game the state is known for, namely bullying and forcing companies to comply and stay in their lane, while still allowing different rules for state airlines. DM

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This notice was published: 2021-06-10 22:13:52


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