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Johannesburg – Cash-strapped strapped South African Airways (SAA) subsidiary Mango Airlines was so broke that it had lost a number of planes and couldn’t even pay Air Traffic Navigation Services (ATNS).

This was revealed in court papers seen by The Star.
Several unions, including the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA), the National Union of Metal of SA and the Mango Pilots Association have filed papers at the South Gauteng High Court asking that the airline be placed under business rescue to ensure its survival.

Mango was in so much debt that it was struggling to even pay salaries. More than 10 pilots have left the company because of uncertainty of employment and issues with payments. The Star understands that pilots were owed eight months’ in salaries.

According to the court papers: “On 1 April 2021 Mango’s fleet sank to three aircraft from five. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic Mango’s fleet consisted of 14 aircraft.”

The Star understands that the situation was so bad that two companies that Mango Airline leases planes from had applied to place the airline under liquidation; the application resulted in a drop in ticket sales.

In the court papers, the unions also expressed their confusion with the sale of SAA and stated that it was not clear how this would affect the SAA subsidiary. Mango employs around 700 people.

“On 11 June 2021 Minister Gordhan announced that the Takatso consortium comprising Harith General Partners, a leading investor in African infrastructure and airports, and airline management firm Global Airways, had been selected as the preferred strategic equity partner for SAA. No clarity was given in how subsidiaries of SAA would be dealt with through this deal. Instead Minister Gordhan stated in respect of the subsidiaries that, as part of the due diligence processes the DPE and the consortium would carry out a joint assessment on the future of the subsidiaries.”

In the court papers the unions say Mango CEO William Ndlovu told employees on June 21, 2021 that there was no money whatsoever to pay salaries and that funding had been applied for but not received. To date there has been no clarity whether or not funding would be received from SAA.

Chairperson of the Mango Pilots Association, Jordan Butler, said staff morale was at its lowest but employees were even willing to give up what was owed to them just to save the company.

“We as pilots are owed eight months salaries but we can give that up if we have a seat at the business rescue table. The rescue papers have been filed so we are waiting. From the staff that I am speaking to they don’t feel like giving up yet,” Butler said.

What seems to be the final nail in the coffin came yesterday when

Ndlovu sent out a media statement grounding all Mango flights till further notice.

“Mango airlines apologises for today’s flight interruptions and delays. We can confirm that our services and flights have been temporarily suspended from today July 27 until further notice due to outstanding payments to ATNS. Senior management and our shareholder are locked in emergency discussions to find an amicable solution to this impasse,” Ndlovu said.

Ndlovu said customers who were inconvenienced by the flight’s cancellations could contact the airline to express their grievance.

Mango could not clarify when it would be back in the skies again.


Article written by: Itumeleng Mafisa

Photo credit: SA Promo Magazine


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