An urgent African National Congress (ANC) alliance meeting has been called next week to discuss the worsening crisis at the South African Airways (SAA). This follows the SAA’s decision to cancel most domestic routes, as well as some international routes.

The airline announced on Thursday that it has taken the decision together with the Business Rescue Practitioners in an effort to make SAA profitable and sustainable.

It also announced the possible retrenchment of workers on the affected routes.

The South African Communist Party (SACP) has strongly criticised the SAA Business Rescue Practitioner’s decision to cancel several domestic and international routes and reduce the number of employees. The airline said it has taken this decision in an effort to make SAA profitable and sustainable.

The SACP First Deputy General Secretary Solly Mapaila says it is unacceptable that workers were not consulted on possible retrenchments. He also said the domestic market is important to the turnaround strategy of the airliner.

Meanwhile, plans are in place and negotiations are on-going in Port Elizabeth to mitigate the effect of the ceasing of SAA flights to the city. The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber says the announcement disrupts talks over the past two years to increase flights to Port Elizabeth.

Chamber CEO Nomkhita Mona expressed major concerns about possible job losses.

“Part of what we are going to do is to talk to some of the regional airlines and some of the domestic operators that are already operating in the region to put more aircraft in the route. Additionally we are looking at smaller charter operators who could fly the shorter routes, and we have already been speaking to some partners who are finalizing those routes going forward. We are also encouraged as we heard last night that SA Airlink has put its hand that they will be flying this route.”

An SAA employee and NUMSA member at the Port Elizabeth airport, Luyanda Lelu, says it is a difficult time for all involved.

“The mood of the people is down; the staff morale is down since we heard the shocking news. We are encouraged to stay put and hang in there while we are working on a solution. We are having communication about the job losses. The intention is to stay calm and find a workable solution. We are still open to engage as we have plans in place to minimise job losses.”