JOHANNESBURG – Tenacious regional transporter SA Airlink said on Tuesday that it would proceed with legal action to force South Africa’s International Air Services Council (IASC) to review its decision to allow SA Express to take to the skies without following proper compliance requirements.
In a statement, SA Airlink said its objective was to ensure the consistent application of the law by the IASC when it considered the fitness and ability of any airline to sustain safe and reliable commercial international air services.
“In this instance, the IASC appears to have made its decision in the absence of any recent set of audited accounts for SA Express and disregarding the Public Enterprises Minister’s (Pravin Gordhan’s) who represents the small airline’s major shareholder of the government) advice to Parliament in September that the carrier was not a going concern and was “experiencing financial difficulties”, the airline said.
SA Express and its holding company SAA were grounded for non-compliance in late August.
SA Airlink’s objection is that the IASC’s decision appears to ignore SA Express directors’ and executive management’s September briefing to Parliament on its liquidity crisis and resultant high level of aircraft unserviceability, which led to its inability to provide the regular, on-time domestic air services it advertised and for which it was taking customers’ money.
The airline said in the meantime, at the request of the Competition Commission’s ongoing market investigation, it agreed to withdraw its request for an urgent interdict suspending the IASC’s decision to allow SA Express to operate three new cross-border routes.
“Airlink’s legal challenge is not aimed at limiting competition, it only operates on one of the new routes for which SA Express has been licensed and already faces competition on that route,” it said.
To guide the IASC in its considerations, the International Air Services Regulations clearly stipulate the criteria to be met by, and the information to be furnished by, all airlines in support of their applications.
In addition to the type of aircraft, the airport to be served and frequency of flights, they require the submission of evidence of “financial capability” which has ordinarily included audited financial statements demonstrating “going concern”, current profit and loss statements, balance sheets and statements of retained earnings, as well as a clear business case.
Meanwhile, SA Express yesterday announced the upcoming launch of two separate routes.
The airline will open the Johannesburg to Bulawayo route on November 18, while the Cape Town-East London-Mthatha route is scheduled to start operating this Friday.