The South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) suspended the air operator certificate (AOC) as well as the aircraft maintenance organization (AMO) approvals of South Africa Express, a subsidiary of South Africa Airways, on May 24, 2018. Nine of the 21 aircraft of the airline’s (all Bombardier) fleet are also grounded as their certificates of airworthiness (COA) were revoked. The decision follows findings of “serious” safety concerns.

As explained in an official statement, the SACAA ran an inspection of SA Express operations and found 17 cases of non-compliance with safety legislation, five of which are described as “severe non-compliance or non-conformance that poses a very serious safety or security risk”.

Following an audit of several state-owned enterprises of South Africa, Pravin Gordhan, Minister of Public Enterprises, reported that SA Express was under suspicion of corruption and fraud. As a consequence, several managers were suspended and a new board was appointed.

As for the financial sustainability of the airline, Gordhan announced that steps are being taken to merge SA Express with two other struggling airlines - Mango and South Africa Airways. “Bringing the airlines together and rationalising their routes and rationalising the kind of aircraft needed at a particular time of day – that is the experience we are beginning to learn from different airlines across the world,” he commented.

South Africa Airways, the parent company of SA Express, has been struggling for years. The airline has failed to secure a profit since 2011 and has already received $1.6 billion in government funding. Another $400 million has been promised to try to help the airline.

SA Express is also in the process of defining a strategy with the government to “stabilise the company financially”. However, Lungi Mnganga-Gcabashe, chairperson of the Parliament committee on public enterprises, has called for the former executives of SA Express to be held accountable for the financial struggles of the subsidiary in the past years.

“No report has been presented of people being held legally accountable for misuse of state funds,” she said, adding that any further money injection should be better monitored to avoid “reinforcing maladministration, fraud and corruption”.