Eighty per cent of African passengers do not travel with the continent’s airlines simply because they have no options; this is one of the reasons for the recently introduced South Africa to Nigeria entry point by South African Airways.
“Most of the Africa intercontinental traffic is carried by non-African carriers, eighty per cent of African passengers are not flying on African airlines,” said John Tambi, board member of South African Airways (SAA).
This is not because they want to but because they have no choice he reckons, adding that another reason is that non-African airlines are “aggressive” in that they can “exploit” the gap.
“The strategy first of all is to interconnect African countries to make air transportation accessible, so you can connect from city to city and secondly to promote intra-Africa trade and also to promote regional integration,” said Tambi.
“SAA makes most of its profits from the African market, it would be foolish for us to ignore this – so the African growth strategy is based on first profitability, inter connectivity, improving regional integration and also promoting intra-African trade.”
Addressing the entity’s issues, Tambi explains how well the airline has done in context – “The fact that SAA has sustained itself up to this point shows that it must be doing something right.”
He adds: “This is an iconic institution that has shown resilience in spite of all odds, and now people are trying to be negative and destroy what we have.”
Tambi continues to commend the southern African airline for managing to outlive many other airlines, which had even deeper pockets.
He says that receiving a bailout means that it is a guarantee from government.
“The government has never really given cash to South African Airways for the past ten years, it gives a guarantee – the guarantee is used by SAA to go to the market and then raise cash.”
In response to a question about the clarity of the Airbus deal, Tambi said he would prefer not to open Pandora’s Box but that basically the public was misinformed.
“But suffice it to say, the public was misled about this issue – I gave about nine points why I thought it [the deal] was not very good.”
One of the reasons he lists is currency fluctuation, based on how much SAA has lost in the past on that very reason.