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After years of financial losses, South African Airways is trying to cut costs by offering pilots and cabin crew to major global carriers. Bloomberg reports that SAA’s Chief Executive Officer Vuyani Jarana did not reveal how many pilots and flight attendants could lose their jobs or be transferred, but in an interview he explained measures including eliminating destinations within Africa and reducing capacity or cutting half the flights from the airline’s Johannesburg base to London.
The airline hasn’t generated a profit since 2011 and has a three-year turnaround plan. SAA has explored options to transfer pilots to rival airlines Kenya Airways and Air Mauritius, as well as Emirates, Turkish, and Ethiopian Airlines, Jarana told Bloomberg. Jarana said these transfers will create new partnerships and help the airline shrink, with the possibility of staff returning if SAA can generate a profit. However, the CEO does not plan to leave Star Alliance, the global airline alliance of which SAA is a member, along with United Airlines.
This all comes at time when airlines are actively seeking pilots to combat a pilot shortage. The global shortage of pilots was a one of the factors that caused Emirates to cut flights and, in April, at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, the airline’s CEO Tim Clark said Emirates was short at least 100 pilots. Within the next 20 years, North American airlines will be in need of over 100,000 new pilots, and the shortage is expected to reach over 2,000 by 2025, according to a report by Statista. The report also noted that Republic Airways’ 2016 bankruptcy was in part due to lack of qualified pilots and that last year Europe’s biggest low-fare airline, Ryanair, canceled more than 2,000 flights because it did not have enough pilots.
Featured image of a South African Airways Airbus A340-300 by Mayall/ullstein bild via Getty Images
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