SA Express woes under spotlight in parliament

Financially troubled state owned airline South African Express (SAX) has had to fork out millions of rands to get its four grounded aircraft operational again.

Limited funds have had an impact on the engine overhauls required for the grounded aircraft‚ Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown said in a written reply to a parliamentary question Tuesday by Congress of the People MP Deidre Carter.

As of January‚ all but one of the grounded aircraft had been out of action for over a year with the days out of service totalling 455‚ 358‚ 415 and 253 days respectively.

The age of the SAX fleet has long been a concern for the airline and has compromised its operational reliability and profitability. While its aircraft were grounded it had to make use of chartered planes Brown said in order “to maintain the schedule‚ protect market share as well as revenue“.

The minister revealed that between January 2016 and January 2017 SAX used chartered airlines on 5772 flights with 3032 of these being provided by charter airline company Solenta and 1728 by Star Air Cargo.

SA has 22 aircraft at its disposal of which 18 are leased. The average age of the four it owns is 18 years.

Brown said that it would cost about $11‚7m (about R150m) to get the planes operational again and SAX opted late in 2016/17 to lease engines to save on costs.

This reduced the amount required to $6.5m (about R85m) excluding the monthly cost of about $600 000 “to service the component exchange and engine support agreements‚” Brown said.

Last month Brown revealed the extent of SAX’s financial problems when she said in Parliament that it was unable to repay R150m to two banks.

Government intervention was required to reach a settlement on a repayment plan. She told MPs that the airline continued to face profitability and liquidity challenges.