South African Airways’ extension of cancellation of flights dig deeper into the pockets of travellers who have been forced to prolong their stay in the country.
The airline extended the cancellation of all domestic and regional flights to tomorrow and Monday. Its domestic, regional and international flights scheduled for yesterday and today, had already been cancelled.
The parastatal said the operational decision was aimed at minimising the impact of disruptions for the airline’s customers.
All international flights departing from OR Tambo International Airport would resume tomorrow, the airline announced.
International customers stood for hours in long lines at the airport, seeking refunds or the transfer of flights to other airlines. Many were frustrated as SAA’s sister airlines were fully booked and had no space to accommodate them.
SAA customer Ronnie Goodman said he had not been informed of the strike by the airline and that it was inconvenient. Goodman, who came to the country to coordinate American singer Toni Braxton’s concert, said he was losing valuable business time due to the cancellation of the flights.
“I organise events and one more day here means I am losing money. Furthermore, I am spending money that I did not anticipate and the airline is not going to reimburse that.
“We cannot be transferred to other airlines because they are fully booked.
“We cannot get our money back because we paid via travel agencies in New York. The difference in time means that the airline cannot process the reimbursement with travel agencies. This is a nightmare,” he said.
English national Mick Crawford said he had not been aware there was a strike and heard about it on the news. He said he had not budgeted for a longer stay as he had a holiday package deal.
Gael Kafutshi from Congo waited in great distress in the line for a transfer of his flight to make it for his brother’s wedding today.
Simone Klink switched lines with her partner to see who would secure a flight first. She said she was hoping they would get seats on Ethiopian Airlines but was worried of how slow the line was.
SAA said the extension of the cancellation of flights was due to ongoing industrial action by the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa). The Unions embarked on a two-day strike, yesterday and today, over wage demands of 8% and the proposed retrenchment of 900 workers.
Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said: “We are disappointed at SAA in taking a decision to prolong the cancellation of flights. They said they were losing R52 million a day due to the strike.
“The money that is lost in the four days of not operating is enough for the wage increment the workers are asking for. We do not understand why SAA does not want to settle this as soon as possible for the betterment of all parties involved.”
The unions refused an offer of a 5.9% wage increase by the financially troubled SAA on Thursday.
The unions and SAA are due to have a mediation meeting today at SAA’s head office.