South African low-cost airline Mango has grounded all its flights temporarily over payments outstanding to Air Traffic Navigation Services. The airline has been in financial difficulty for some time, entering business rescue just yesterday. The sudden suspension has left hundreds of passengers stranded, with other airlines struggling to lay on additional flights.
Passengers stranded as Mango grounds its flights
South African low-cost airline Mango has suspended all its flights temporarily just a day after announcing it would enter business rescue, a form of bankruptcy protection. The airline has ceased flying today over payments owed to Air Traffic Navigation Services (ATNS).
The airline’s acting CEO William Ndlovu has stated that discussions are ongoing and that the airline is hopeful for a solution soon. He stated,
“Senior management and our shareholder are locked-in in emergency discussions to find an amicable solution to this impasse. Affected passengers with valid and available contact details will be informed via email and SMS accordingly.”
Mango Airlines apologises for today's flight interruptions and delays.
We can confirm that our services and all flights are temporarily suspended from today, 27 July 2021, until further notice due to outstanding payments to ATNS. (1/4)
— Mango Airlines (@FlyMangoSA) July 27, 2021
In his statement, Ndlovu said that the airline plans to resume normal operations as soon as possible. He called for ‘calm and patience’ while the airline navigates these challenges, and advised affected guests to contact the airline directly for matters relating to cancellations and vouchers.
But that comes as little comfort to people who are booked to fly Mango in the next couple of days. The transition from business rescue to grounding happened so suddenly, hundreds of ticket holders were left stranded this morning at airports, including Cape Town International and Johannesburg OR Tambo. Some passengers had even been allowed to check-in online before realizing at the airport that they were not going anywhere.
You and me we were on the same boat💔
Had to go back because no one told me anything about the cancelation of flights. We get this information when we are at the airport🤬
— #FreeBritneyNOW✊🏿❤ (@Thembileeh) July 27, 2021
At King Shaka International in La Mercy and serving Durban, eyewitnesses report a complete lack of Mango staff to help with the disruption and passengers arriving without receiving any notifications of the cancellations.
Mango Airlines passengers stranded in @kingshakaint, not a single mango staff member to account, and no notifications were sent to passengers! @FlyMangoSA @AldrinSampear@samkelemaseko @SABCNews @eNewsAfrica @NewsroomAfrica @eNCA @insightfactor pic.twitter.com/7LOidzHYqK
— MfanaKaGogo (@Basoh_Mabaso) July 27, 2021
For stranded passengers, the remaining options are FlySafair and LIFT. FlySafair told Times Live that all its flights for today are already sold out. However, the airline is looking to add extra flights later this week to cater for stranded Mango passengers.
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A slow decline
The future of South African Airways’ low-cost subsidiary Mango has been uncertain for over a year now. In the wake of the pandemic stunting travel demand, employees at the airline were reported to take a 50% pay cut as the airline suspended services for several weeks.
Although the airline continued to press on through 2020, it was still on shaky ground as we moved into 2021. In late April, money owed to leasing companies was becoming too much of a burden for the airline, with reports surfacing that it could stop flying by May 1st.
Nevertheless, the airline soldiered on, continuing to fly all of its network apart from Zanzibar into May. Despite putting a brave face on the situation, Mango’s financial problems had not gone away.
Yesterday, it was revealed that the airline had entered business rescue, a form of bankruptcy protection which its parent, SAA, has only just left. At the time, the airline said that operations would continue uninterrupted, with Ndlovu stating,
“Mango confirms that Operations will continue according to the airlines operating schedule as published. The details of the decision to place Mango under business rescue are still being finalized by all stakeholders. The details of the process will be made available as soon as possible.”
Less than 24 hours later, that statement has failed to hold true. Until the situation with ATNS can be resolved, the airline is stuck. Whether it will be able to come to a satisfactory resolution remains to be seen.