26/03/2018 06:50 SAST | Updated 26/03/2018 06:50 SAST

SAA Cargo Planes Temporarily Grounded

Five SAA cargo planes were grounded for five days after the airline missed a deadline to install crucial collision-avoidance software.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters

Five South African Airways (SAA) cargo planes were grounded last month for five days after SAA missed a deadline to upgrade communications software on the aircraft, Times Select reported on Monday.

SAA itself grounded the five Boeing 737s, after being denied a request of an extension by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA). This is reportedly after SAA failed to upgrade the planes' Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) in time.

According to Times Select, SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said the planes were allowed to operate again on February 24.

SAA Cargo reportedly operates one flight per night between OR Tambo and other major terminals.

The TCAS is a requirement for planes and ensures they can communicate with each other in the air to avoid collisions. SAA met the deadline to upgrade its passenger fleet, Times Select reported.

Tlali Tlali reportedly said, "[Because of the] possible grounding, we immediately informed our customers we will not accept specific types of cargo for the period of the suspension of services.

"Of the cargo that was already delivered to us, we moved as much as possible through passenger airline flights.

"For urgent shipments, we made arrangements to move the cargo via other airlines. Some of the customers were able to delay transportation and delivered the cargo once we uplifted the suspension and we were then able to move it.

"The measures we took ensured that the financial impact on us and on our customers was minimised," said Tlali.

Meanwhile, avoiding another government bailout for SAA is reportedly one of new finance minister Nhlanhla Nene's key priorities, BusinessTech reported last week. Newly appointed SAA CEO Vuyani Jarana is reportedly trying to get the airline to a break-even point within three years, following concerns raised by the auditor-general that it may not be able to operate as a going concern for much longer.

Jarana reportedly said a "clear strategy" was now in place to return the airline to profitability.

According to Business Day, the strategy includes the reorganisation of the route network and cost cutting. The airline made a loss of R5.6-billion in 2017. Talks about the possible recapitalisation of SAA are reportedly underway between the board, Treasury and Nene.