Phillip Saunders appointed interim SAA CEO


Phillip Saunders has been appointed as the interim South African Airways (SAA) CEO, the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) announced on Tuesday.

An experienced airline executive with a strong commercial background, Saunders will work closely with the interim board to appoint an interim management team that must implement a fundamental restructuring of SAA, led by the new interim board.

Saunders’s appointment follows the vote in favour of a business rescue plan for SAA on Tuesday.

At a meeting convened by the Business Rescue Practitioners (BRPs) for SAA, 86% of creditors voted to support a business rescue plan for the airline.

“The DPE believes that the favourable vote is a much better outcome for creditors and SAA employees than liquidation, and government remains confident that the implementation of the business rescue plan will balance the rights and interests of all parties,” the department said in a statement.

According to the DPE, its priorities are now to give effect to funding commitments by government for the business rescue plan, and to appoint a new and reconfigured interim board for SAA.

In supporting the plan, government committed to mobilising the necessary resources to fund the transition. This includes the Voluntary Severance Packages (VSPs) agreed with the unions, and meeting the minimum requirements of the Labour Relations Act and Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

“The department hopes that a new SAA can reclaim market share, while fighting to compete more in the emerging market space – notwithstanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that will constrain the aviation industry for some time into the future,” said the DPE.

As shareholder, the DPE expressed appreciation at the level of commitment and cooperation from unions and staff representatives, who have accepted fair and reasonable severance packages in the interest of their members, at a time when the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are causing thousands of job losses in the global aviation industry.