UPDATE: Travellers advised to double-check insurance as booking sites pull the plug on SAA flights
Uncertainty about a state bailout has seen Flight Centre and Travel Check refusing to sell South African Airways (SAA) tickets, as Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan calls on the public to support the airline.
Following strike action and the current lack of confidence in the stability of SAA there have been several knock-on disruptions travellers need to be aware of. Online travel agents (OTAs) have taken the cautious road, to ensure their customers come first. Flight Centre has also confirmed its main insure is no longer providing cover for insolvency for travel with SAA.
Otto de Vries, CEO of the Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA) says, “ASATA are closely monitoring the situation at SAA and working closely with its members to understand the risks and concerns of customers. We are also in talks with SAA and government stakeholders in an effort to try to manage the situation.”
“We are entering the peak holiday season for South African travellers and every effort must be made to ensure that their holiday plans are not disrupted,” says de Vries.
ASATA urges travellers to check their travel insurance cover to ensure they can travel with peace of mind, with minimal disruptions should the crises at SAA worsen.
SA travel booking sites pull the plug on SAA flights
Online booking sites are refusing to sell airline tickets for embattled national carrier South African Airways (SAA) – as uncertainty about a state bailout has seen insurance companies refusing to offer insolvency cover for travel with the airline.
Andrew Stark, managing director for the Flight Centre Travel Group in the Middle East and Africa, confirmed the travel company would no longer be selling SAA tickets on Thursday evening, reports Fin24.
“Over the last month there have been several publications in the media regarding ongoing concerns in respect of the financial stability of South African Airways,” it states.
Flight Centre’s preferred travel insurance provider, along with “a number of other global insurance providers” are no longer willing to cover SAA for insolvency, in the face of an unstable financial future, further exacerbated by a week-long strike and no guarantee coming from the state.
Newcomer to the online travel booking playing field Travel Check also confirmed the OTA stopped selling SAA tickets on Thursday.
CEO Odette Falling told Traveller24, “We have our clients best interest at heart and we are uncertain about SAA’s future right now. Because of that we have temporarily suspended selling SAA flights on the Travel Check website. As soon as we hear more positive news we might reinstate selling the airline again”
Falling said not everybody uses travel insurance, when asking if the move was motivated in the same way as Flight Centre.
“As a proudly South African company we want to support the national carrier but our customer‘s interest needs to be considered first in this case.”
While these two OTAs have opted for safety for their travellers first and foremost, a search by Traveller24 on key SAA routes like Sao Paulo and Washington via TravelStart and Flight Site yielded SAA ticket options.
As travellers approach the peak festive season travel period, confidence in the airline is at an all-time low after the recent strike, announced after restructuring plans to cut some 938 jobs cost the airline an estimated R50m a day – with the airline saying it was unable to pay salaries in December.
SAA and South African Airways Technical (SAAT) have also been embroiled in safety and compliance issues with the South African Civil Aviation Authority previously grounding local airlines serviced by SAAT, as a result of a negative audit at the time.
Certain corporate companies have issued notices, advising staff to book with alternative airlines, with the communication referencing the Safety concerns reported on SAAT.
Multichoice being one such company issuing the following notice, “MultiChoice Travellers are requested to refrain from travelling on SAA, Mango, SA Express both locally and internationally due to recent news reports. If no alternative is available, it is at the travellers’ discretion to travel on these airlines.”
Traveller24 has contacted SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali but has yet to receive a response.