Clearly, flying a plane is nothing like riding a bicycle – and muscle memory alone cannot be relied upon if you’re a pilot for South African Airways. The company’s new interim CEO, Thomas Kgokolo, has confirmed that all SAA cockpit staff and cabin crew will have to undergo a ‘retraining programme’ before they operate another flight.
The ailing airline has been lying dormant for over a year, after 4 000 jobs were slashed from the national carrier. Billions upon billions have been chucked at the state-owned enterprise, and this ‘new era’ for SAA begins under a cloud of cynicism. They’ve been bailed out by public funds on several occasions – another failure could kill the business for good.
However, Thomas Kgokolo is surprisingly upbeat, given the scale of the task he’s taken on. The ambitious project leader wants a ‘fresh start’ for SAA in every possible sense, and has even touted the use of ‘greener’, more fuel-efficient planes in the future. The head honcho also wants to oversee a major rebranding of the airline: But one issue takes priority…
Flights remain cancelled up until Wednesday 30 June. However, all bookings from Thursday 1 July ARE still valid. The pilots will need to be brought up to speed with new COVID regulations, updates to essential equipment, and changes to aviation protocol since SAA planes were last in action. Therefore, retraining tops the to-do list for Kgokolo:
“From a compliance perspective, we need to make sure that we are at the right level from an aviation point of view – the Business Rescue Practitioners managed to do a lot of cleaning up, so this gives us an opportunity to have a fresh start and with the work that has been done so far we are able to take the organisation forward.”
We need to do training for the pilots – they’ve not been flying for a while. We’re also going to look at the type of aircraft we are going to use in the future – they must be fuel-efficient. We must also go for a decent marketing campaign to ensure that as we get back on line our loyal customers can start using us again. We can’t continue the way we did in the past.”