South African Airways CEO Resigns Due To Lack Of Turnaround

Vuyani Jarana, Chief Executive Officer of South African Airways, has reportedly resigned. He took the senior role with the carrier in 2017.

A South African Airways Boeing 747.
A South African Airways Boeing 747. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Konstantin von Wedelstaedt

According to Reuters and fin24 reporting, Jarana has resigned after being unable to progress a turnaround strategy designed to restore the airline to profit, so he says. South African Airways (SAA) has not made a profit since 2011.

SAA is expected to issue a statement shortly

An SAA spokesperson, according to Reuters, neither confirmed or denied the report of the CEO’s resignation, but did say the airline board would be issuing a statement soon. Jarana was hired in 2017 with the goal of returning the airline to profit. One Mile At A Time reports that the carrier has had seven CEOs across a period of five years.

The airline’s five-year turnaround plan includes cutting costs and removing unprofitable routes. Further reporting by fin24 says the aviation industry is “surprised” and “disappointed” at the news of the CEO’s resignation. One expert, according to the news outlet, said that Jarana was “in the middle” of optimizing the airline’s routes.

New routes and code share agreements for SAA

On May 5th, it was also reported that SAA would be launching a direct route to a major manufacturing location in China. The direct flights between Johannesburg, South Africa, and Guangzhou, China, are set to begin on September 18th. SAA will be the only carrier to operate such a direct service. CEO Jarana said at the time of the announcement:

“Adding a direct service to mainland China, combined with our current popular flights to Hong Kong provides SAA with immense growth opportunities to and from mainland China. It also gives our traders access to the centre of Chinese manufacturing.”

SAA has also said it is negotiating a new code share agreement with Hong Kong airlines. It is expected to be in place this financial year and opens up more options for travelers.

South African Airways A340-600. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Previously, SAA expanded its existing code share agreement with Emirates, in a positive move for the struggling airline. The original agreement with Emirates was set up in 1997. The new agreement means passengers of both airlines will be able to access more flights. It will also enhance both airline’s frequent flyer programs.

Plans to return SAA to profit by 2021

SAA’s five-year turnaround plan aspired to make the airline profitable by 2021. Speculation is that SAA could become publicly listed afterward, selling shares to the public, and offering a potential solution to securing the airline’s long-term financial future. The immediate task now for SAA, it seems, may be finding a new CEO.

South Africa
The flyover from below. Photo: South African Airways

Just days ago two SAA Airbus A340s took part in an impressive flyover of Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria as part of new South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s inauguration ceremony. The aircraft flew in close formation with South African Air Force jets and the air force’s “Silver Falcons” aerobatics team.

Who do you think is best placed to take the helm at SAA? Let us know in the comments.