SAA Pilot's Heartbreaking Letter After Airline Retrenches Pilots
SAA Pilot's Heartbreaking Letter After Airline Retrenches Pilots. Photo: Richard Wright

SAA, you’ve finally done it… writes (former) South African Airways pilot Phil Parsons. Sixteen months after last paying us and 26 years since hiring me, you’ve pulled the plug and retrenched us all. A sad day indeed.

My sadness transcends the beautiful machines I’ve had the privilege of flying or the wide world SAA allowed me to play in. Most of all my heart is filled with sadness at the loss of the friendships and our camaraderie as South African Airways Pilots – a select band of brothers and sisters. Not all house friends, but the kind I would welcome into my home anytime.

Aviators from every walk of life, from the Head of the AWB Airwing to ANC exiles, the SAAF war heroes to cadets from far flung rural villages, from the naughty to the God fearing, from the casanovas to the moms with kids at home. Every one with a flying or life story to learn from.

It sounds so cliche but our diversity was truly our strength – with varying skills and experience levels but every last one with a common love of flying, and our company, in equal measure.

Who can forget the excitement of opening our rosters on the 16th of every month for a sneak peek into the following month’s fun. It was like opening a lucky packet. Some you preferred more than others, but all sweet none the less. Remember having to literally suck a lemon to get the smile off our faces while preparing for work or whistling while walking to our cars ?

Whether on the jumpseats to Jozi, in the corridors at work, at the sign-on counter at Dispatch, at the door on a crew change in Accra, in the hotel lobbies or even bumping into each other on the streets of Hong Kong, New York or Frankfurt and London, the perpetual banter was unrivalled. Every encounter inevitably involved a quick whinge about management, some humorous stories about our colleagues or a belly laugh about the shenanigans on a recent trip.

Friendships cemented over hours and hours in near darkness, crossing continents and oceans. Generally avoiding politics and religion we explored each others passions, loves, losses, adventures, dreams, family dramas or crazy business ideas. More often than not while devising a mean plan of action involving exploring our exotic destination, interrupted only by some serious eating and drinking at our favourite haunts. From the wild parties to the quiet meals or even the solo exploring, every trip an adventure, every single time.

To say the last year and a half has been testing for all of us would be a gross understatement. Many will give up flying and for the the rest it’ll take a few years to return to the flight deck, under completely different circumstances I’m sure ?

Hang in there my friends, this crazy world will eventually right itself.

To JZ, Dudu and your cronies, the toxic mix of your greed and incompetence destroyed a once proud 87-year old airline of world repute. You should be riddled with guilt but, as most of the country have discovered, you have no shame.

Enriching yourselves you’ve sewn a trail of destruction in your wake. Thousands of upstanding, hardworking and loyal workers’ lives have been upended. For the suffering you’ve caused you all deserve a special kind of pain. May you rot in hell.

To those of you who are entrusted to carry on the legacy in Version 2, I wish you well. May you prove the naysayers wrong. Fly the flag and fly it safely.

Lastly, to all my colleagues and friends, I thank you for the fun and the laughter. Every last one of you has left an indelible mark and I will cherish our memories forever.

May you all find happiness beyond SAA. I will miss you all dearly.
Godspeed my friends.

PS. Jacob Sethlake, I will forever be indebted to you for capturing my last landing in our beloved Airbus A340-600, on a perfect day in Cape Town nogal… Who needs Water Cannons

Written by Phil Parsons, and republished on SAPeople with Phil’s kind permission. See the original post here

South African Airways and the SAA Pilots Association this week reached a deal in which SAAPA members will be retrenched according to their current salaries (less than they would’ve been entitled to under the regulating agreement). In early April the SAA pilots had gone on strike for the first time in history due to unpaid salaries and retrenchment conditions. The pilots had last been paid a year beforehand, and had been locked out of their workplace since December 2020.