South African Airways (SAA), has said plans are underway to resume the Lagos-Johannesburg route which it stopped some years back by 2019.
Regional Manager, SAA, Africa, Middle East and Indian Ocean Islands, Mr. Aaron Munetsi said the airline had to stop the Abuja operation to re-strategies on how best to serve the market.
Speaking at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the airline’s operation into Lagos, Munetsi stated that the decision to stop the Abuja operation was strategic noting that the Airbus A330-200 which was being used on the route was too big for the market.
Munetsi assured the Consul General of SA in Lagos, Amb. Darkey Africa and other dignitaries at the event that the airline’s Group Chief Executive officer will soon be in Lagos to discuss the modalities of reopening the Abuja route with Ambassador.
He said: “We are celebrating 20 years of being in Nigeria, last week we celebrated 60 years of operating in Malawi, and in February SAA celebrated 84 years of existence. When you google it you will find that there are only 4 airlines in the whole world that have stayed that long. We are holding the flag for the African continent. And I can tell you this is not the end because as South African Airways, we say to ourselves we are charismatic, we are confident, we are cautious of being Africans and most importantly we are cosmopolitan. We do not hesitate to make sure that anybody who comes in contact with us is affected positively. We are not shy of being leaders, and we will take that leadership responsibility and we will make sure that anybody who comes in contact with us realises that they have come across a power house.
“We did stop operations to Abuja but we are proud to say even though we stopped, we did not stop in disgust or stopped with shame. We stopped it because it was a strategic decision at that time. We started operating with an Airbus A330-200, that aircraft was too big for the market. We were to make a tough decision to say are we going to continue and dig ourselves into a hole or are we going to stop and recalibrate? We are recalibrating and I am sure my group CEO will come to you and let you know of the plans we have for Abuja. I can assure you, your excellency before the end of 2019 we will be back to Abuja.
“In SAA we always use the acronym FACT, the first thing we do is to make sure that we serve the route with the appropriate Frequency. We also give you the Availability of seat on that route, and the T, talks about timing, because it is important. We want to make sure that people travel at the appropriate time for them to get to where they want to get to. We also make sure that where ever we fly to at any time, we give you the Capacity to be able to get on that flight and not being frustrated because you don’t have seat on that flight.
The SAA boss added that the airline has taken adequate measures to stop the financial haemorrhage on the carrier’s balance sheet affirming that SAA will become profitable by 2021.
He said: “We are proud to be serving Nigeria as one of the only two countries in Africa where our state-of-the-art Airbus A330-300 series is deployed. 40 consecutive years we have been nominated as the best airline in Africa, it doesn’t come because of we are working for ourselves, it is you the customers that voted us as the best airline in Africa.
We take our responsibility so seriously that even when other African airlines were blacklisted by the European Union that they could not fly to Europe we were flying.
“We know where we are, that it is difficult being where we are, we don’t want to be there and we make promises to His excellency and to our shareholders that we are going to act on it.
“Mike Tyson the former heavy weight boxer always say this, and we take it seriously in South Africa Airways, that everybody who gets into the boxing ring gets there with a strategy. We knew that being an airline in Africa was going to put us in that situation where everybody was aiming to hit us. And our strategy was to understand, and we have been on the defensive but now we are on the offensive. We can see the green shoot, we have managed to steer the red ink on our balance sheet away and it is beginning to profit. The African region is growing and it will become even more profitable. Within the next couples of year, say 2021 you are not going to see South African Airways on the red mark. We are not going to make any losses in 2021”.
by Friday Nwosu