Boycott South African Airways (SAA). Here’s why

It is your patriotic duty to do so. If you are unpatriotic, it is your ethical duty. If you are unethical, it is your familial duty. If you have no family, it is your selfish duty. If you are a selfless hermit, fly SAA. 

Boycott SAA because it wastes R5-billion annually. That could fund 120,000 university students, 50,000 RDP houses, 10 (300-bed) hospitals, 300 schools, or 30,000 police. It can liberate enough wealth to save 1,000 babies through improved paediatric care and prevent thousands of rapes and murders through improved policing. This is the social cost inflicted when government diverts spending from worthy causes to flights of folly.

Boycott SAA because the multi-year numbers are worse. Past plus proposed subsidies and guarantees (R46-billion plus R21-billion) could fund 670,000 houses, 4,500 schools, 1,500,000 student years, or 20,000km of roads.

Boycott SAA because putting your bum on their seat is putting your conscience on trial. Look down at slums and think about the R800 per seat subsidy diverted from them to you. SAA flies you with spending diverted from the poor, who do not fly, to the rich, who do.

Boycott SAA because it might be unsafe. SAA Technical has been characterised by corruption, delayed repairs, and dodgy parts procurement. Flights have been grounded for safety reasons. People in inefficient, corrupt and loss-making companies cut costs by compromising safety. Parliament’s Public Accounts committee said SAA Technical has a “looting syndicate” stealing parts as big as entire engines.

Boycott SAA because anti-competitive “bilateral” agreements with other countries reduce international routes and carriers. That reduces flights, international business and tourism travel, and forex earnings. It increases prices, lengthens routes and flying time, increases connections, encourages travel to other destinations, and promotes unemployment.

Boycott SAA to fight corruption. “Employees at all levels … are complicit in the corruption” Parliament was told. Many face allegations; some have been found guilty. A former acting CEO and acting CFO committed “gross financial misconduct, negligence and dishonesty”.

Boycott SAA because it serves no purpose. Ask why they want it and you get comical answers.

For “strategic routes”, they say. But there is no such thing. Everyone can fly everywhere easily via a cell phone booking. In the unlikely event they find somewhere they cannot fly, they can charter a flight.

For a “flag carrier”, they say. But SAA flies no flags, and virtually no one sees flags painted on aeroplane tails. The best way to fly flags is … wait for it … on flag poles. If they want flags on tails, many airlines rent ad space on tails.

For a “national carrier”, they say. But they never say what they mean by “national” and what it must carry? Everything SAA does, other carriers do better.

For “tourism”, the say. But SAA curtails tourism. It lobbies for protection from competition thus reducing tourist choices.

For “pride”, they say. The cosmic twaddle prize goes to former Communications Minister, Yunus Carrim, for saying the sight of SAA planes in international airports thrills him. But political vanity can be satisfied without the need to fly, Professor Jannie Roussouw observed, “Park the things there and wash them. It’s cheaper”.

Boycott SAA because the only significant thing it has to attract an aviation investor is foreign landing slots. A major airline could take over the SAA brand while allowing for the painless euthanasia of the terminally bankrupt company. It could be done so seamlessly that few will notice a change.

Boycott SAA because its predatory SAA pricing drove 10 private domestic airlines into bankruptcy.

Boycott SAA because, since competition via “open skies” was allowed, SAA lost half its market share as passengers switched to other airlines. The effective privatisation of the first half proves that the remaining half should be boycotted.

Boycott SAA because virtually all nationalised airlines have been disbanded or privatised. Exceptions (Emirates and Ethiopian) are rare for good reason: they are businesses not vanity projects, they operate from natural hubs, they do not suffer political interference, etc. Exceptions prove the rule that governments should not run airlines.

Boycott SAA to bury an iconic apartheid dinosaur. It was a proudly apartheid “strategic industry” that is now a post-apartheid relic.

Boycott SAA to end government failure. In 10 years, 10 turnaround plans, 8 CEOs, and 15 bailouts, rescues, guarantees, reschedulings, renegotiations and subsidies failed. Three Acting CFOs failed in 12 months. The current plan started failing almost before it was launched.

Boycott SAA because of Mickey Mouse accounting. SAA says it has a growing number of “profitable routes”, yet it has record losses. When all routes become “profitable”, imagine how big the losses will be then! SAA creates the illusion of profit by ignoring overhead costs.

Boycott SAA to minimise employee harm. Allow workers to negotiate decent retrenchment packages and explore job prospects in new airlines serving previous SAA routes.

Boycott SAA because its latest CEO, Vuyani Jarana, said SAA would be profitable by 2021. Assuming he meant net profit without government backing, I offered a R100,000 wager against his prediction, which he accepted. His Parliamentary remarks suggest that he is destined to lose. Even so, I hope he wins. If he, who is as good as they will get, cannot rescue SAA, rational people, including himself, must agree to boycott the farce.

Leon Louw is Executive Director of the Free Market Foundation

This article was first published in City Press on 14 December 2018

Help FMF promote the rule of law, personal liberty, and economic freedom become an individual member / donor HERE ... become a corporate member / donor HERE