SAA to name new CE


State-owned airline South African Airways (SAA) will name its new group chief executive before the end of the year. That’s according to acting CE Chris Smyth.

Business Report this morning said Smyth has confirmed to it that he is being considered. SAA has been without a CE since Khaya Ngqula left in controversy eight months ago.

Smyth says he is keen to have the job. “Yes, I have enjoyed the past eight months,” he told the paper. “It has been great fun. I am enthusiastic about the future of this company and I would like to be a part of it. But if another person is appointed, I would be happy to serve under them.”

SAA last month bucked global airline industry trends to post a remarkable R398-million net profit for the year to March, a massive swing from a R1.085 billion loss the year before.

The state-owned airline`s good results came after the International Air Transport Association (IATA) upped its forecast for global airline losses to $11 billion this year compared with its January forecast of $9 billion.

Smyth at the time said he expected the national flag carrier to only “break even” next year – but that would depend on economic conditions not deteriorating any further, the Rand not weakening, fuel prices not spiking significantly – as it did last year – and passenger and freight demand not falling further.

Noteworthy was SAA`s operating profit of R1.9 billion against a small operating loss of R72 million the previous financial year.

This was, however, offset by a fuel hedging loss of R1.04 billion and restructuring costs of R474 million, leaving a loss of R10 million.

Taking it from –R10 million to +R398 million was a R408 million reversal of a R727 million provision last year regarding the botched cancellation of an unwanted order for 15 Airbus A320 aircraft.

Business Report added SAA was in talks with the US Continental Airlines as it wanted to expand its routes in and to North America.

Smyth said despite this the airline would look at Africa, the Far East, particularly China, and South America for future growth.

“It may mean that we will withdraw from the less profitable routes. I must say that withdrawing from routes does not mean that the airline is in trouble,” said Smyth, who would not divulge the African routes the company had identified. Nor would he disclose those that were not performing well, saying the information would be revealed in due course.

SAA flies 20 direct routes into Africa daily. The region has helped the national carrier mitigate declining air traffic. Smyth said Africa remained resilient as most of the activities were developmental, the business daily added.

Africa generates 20% and 40% of revenue and profit, respectively, for SAA.