Claims that the South African Airways (SAA) flight dispatched by the SA government to transfer a consignment of COVID-19 vaccines was an expensive exercise, are devoid of the truth, asserts the Department of Public Enterprises.
In a statement on Friday, the department said these claims seek to sabotage the role of SAA Cargo in the national effort to transport vaccines and other valuable cargo into the country.
“Once again a minority of SAA pilots tried to protect their own self-interests and pockets by attempting to discredit a flight to transport vaccines back into the country to protect health workers from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the statement.
The department said the flight to Brussels also serves as a test relaunch of the SAA Cargo business.
“Many airlines around the world, including Lufthansa and Ethiopian, have intensified their cargo businesses while the passenger loads declined sharply, in order to bring in revenue. There will be many such flights by SAA in the months to come. This will also include transport of vaccines from manufacturers to African countries during the next months,” said the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE).
It added that for many years, SAA has proved that the cargo business has merit and value to serve the interests of customers and the country’s economic development.
“The Brussels flight to bring back the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is proof that a restructured and well-managed airline operated in a professional and sustainable manner can support key economic sectors – including travel, tourism and even cargo to solidify South Africa as an African gateway to international markets,” said the Department of Public Enterprises.
The DPE said the relaunch of the cargo business serves many purposes among these being an increase in volumes of cargo transported by SAA into and out of South Africa.
It would also ensure that sovereign logistics capacity is sustained – just as when repatriation flights were used to bring back home South Africans stranded in various parts of the world under level 5 lockdown.
“Over time cargo will become a profitable business. Partnerships with private sector will be considered at the appropriate time. These flights will become commercially viable.
“The current flight carried goods to Brussels and will bring back the vaccine and more cargo on the return leg and this was to ensure that the flight and the overall operation is cost effective,” said the DPE.
In an update on its website this week, SAA said that it will resume local and regional passenger flights at the end of April, and international flights at the end of October. Qantas also announced yesterday that its international flights – including the route to Johannesburg – will start at the end of October by which time all Australians are expected to be vaccinated.
– SAnews.gov.za and SAA