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MP calls for review of open skies policy to help SAA

Nov 29 2017 14:50
Carin Smith

Cape Town – It could be time for South African Airways (SAA) to talk to the minister of transport about reviewing the open skies policy in South Africa, the ANC's Pinky Kekana told the airline’s CEO and chair on Wednesday.

"Our skies are too open. We are not saying a plane should not come straight from Dubai to Cape Town, but sometimes it brings unintended consequences to our own national carrier," Kekana said during a briefing of Parliament’s standing committee on finance by SAA.

"Without wanting to disallow provinces to also do their thing, there must be high level consideration of (open skies). It is our national carrier. There is no way we cannot support it."

She also wanted to know many national carriers own airports: this is not the case with SAA. She would like the airline to talk to the minister of transport about this as well.

"We know ACSA (Airports Company South Africa) is doing very well, but you are competing with people who also own airports," said Kekana. "But you can only do that if you show you have capacity."

She added that SAA cabin crew have informed her of a great deal of wastage, especially in business class catering.

Unlike other state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in SA, which operate in what could be described as a monopoly situation, SAA operates in a competitive free market, new board chair JB Magwaza told the committee.

"When we come here to an open session where we discuss the affairs of the (airline), we find we have to deal with quite sensitive information," Magwaza told the committee.

"We have to do our laundry – dirty or clean – in public. So we will try to give as much information as we can get away with in terms of (competitive considerations)."

He added that where necessary, any such sensitive information could be shared with the committee in camera.

Committee member Floyd Shivambu of the Economic Freedom Fighters told Magwaza that he "buys into" the view that perhaps some important SAA statistics should not be made public as it operates in a competitive space and this could undermine strategy implementation.

Kekana also agreed that there might be instances when it would be best to talk to SAA in camera when engaging on "some of the things we want to see happening in SAA".

Committee member Thandi Tobias-Pokolo told the SAA delegation that, in her view, other airlines have outsmarted SAA.

"It is all about strategy. Maybe we should bring in the Competition Commission on the issue of price setting. We just want to look at the bottom line of SAA - at its balance sheet," she said.

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saa  |  jb magwaza  |  airlines  |  aviation
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