Tuesday, 07 August 2007

South African Airways - A Hard Look In The Mirror

For many years South African Airways held its head high as a leader in the field of airtravel. Over the past few years though there has been a steady decline in the profitability of the airline and an increasing perception among the flying public that they really are not an airline in which to put much trust. Besides the ongoing complaints about bad service and a frequent flyer program that has been beset with problems, there has not been empirical research to show why the decline has happened - until now.

Synovate has released their report into the state of South African Airways and it does not make for happy reading. A few of their findings :

1) Of the airlines with less than 60 planes in their fleet, SAA offers the lowest number of destinations, 34.

2) SAA has a relatively high number of employees: 11000 for 58 planes and 34 destinations. To compare, Polish Airlines has 3500 employees for 51 planes and 58 destinations.

3) SAA employs 190 people per plane per fleet — very high, compared to the likes of world-class airlines … which [typically] employ less than 100 heads per plane.

4) In March of this year SAA reported a R603-million operating loss.

Basically poor planning in terms of recruitment and route management are two of the main causes for the decline in what used to be the pride of Africa's skies.

How is it possible that an airline supposedly run by competent managers could allow such poor business planning and management? Why does it take an external company to show those in the business that their recruitment strategy is flawed? Surely senior management at SAA have the lastest international comparatives to hand?

The results of this survey will mean yet another restructuring at SAA and yet more people will find themselves unemployed as the airline cuts staff to reduce operating expenditure. South Africa cannot afford this kind of corporate mismanagement. Will senior management be held accountable? I doubt it. The cynic in me tends to foresee this happening all over again in 5 years time although I would hope things would be different this time around.

Some may say that the explosion of low-cost carriers into the South African market has been responsible for the decline of SAA. I say "rubbish!". Corporate mismanagement and the lack of interest in the paying passenger has been the cause of its decline. Lets hope that this hard look in the mirror will serve as the final wake-up call for our national carrier. If not, it will just be yet another nail in its coffin.

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1 comment:

Dan Airways said...

Great article. The sad news is, they are worse now than ever before. DONT FLY SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS