COVID-19 has caused 2020 to become an immensely difficult year for airlines worldwide in financial terms. However, some carriers are facing economic struggles that date back to before the ongoing coronavirus pandemic struck. One such airline is South African Airways. After multiple government bailouts, South Africa’s flag carrier has now turned to the auction market to raise some much-needed funds.
Long-term financial struggles
Long-term readers of Simple Flying will be all too aware of South African’s precarious financial situation. As early as 2019, the airline was short of money, with a strike threatening to add to the carrier’s problems. This was ultimately called off after the airline agreed to retroactively increase its employees’ pay by 5.9%. However, further struggles followed shortly afterward.
The government did promise South African a 2 billion Rand ($140 million) bailout to ease its worries in January. This increased to 3.5 billion Rand ($240 million) by the end of the month. However, just days later, the country’s president accused the airline of corruption and maladministration, prompting a government investigation. Later in February, the airline cancelled scores of flights due to the financial worries, having also done so in January.
Coronavirus caused further issues
COVID-19 then forced the airline to cease its international operations on March 21st. The airline grounded its remaining domestic flights five days later, on the same day that its CEO announced his resignation. In May, South African returned four of its Airbus A330s to the lessor for storage in Brazil.
South African announced in April that it would receive no further government funding. However, it has since received two further bailouts of 21 billion Rand ($1.2 billion) in June and 10.5 billion Rand ($640 million) in October. Nonetheless, the airline suspended operations once again at the end of September while looking to obtain crucial funding for restructuring.
In an attempt to obtain without needing to chase further government bailouts, the airline has come up with an unlikely solution. South African business and finance news website Fin24 reported yesterday that the carrier would be auctioning various memorabilia to raise money. It reports that:
“According to a notice by WH Auctioneers, an unreserved online auction of items from SAA’s inflight service will take place from 23 to 26 November. Registration has already opened.“
Potential buyers will need to pay a refundable deposit of 25,000 Rand ($1,600) and provide FICA documents to register. Having done so, they will have the chance to bid on such items as:
- Toothpicks (540,000 available)
- Oven bags (184,000 available)
- Chopsticks (32,000 sets available)
- Earplugs (8,000 sets available)
- Premium brand crew luggage
- Paperware (2-ply tissues, toilet paper, flushable and non-flushable paper hand towels, refresher towels)
- Plastic products (cutlery, dirt bags)
- Thousands of foil containers and corresponding foil lids in a variety of colours
- Toiletries (sanitizing spray, face and body wash, hand and body lotion, shampoo and conditioner from airline lounges)
Some of the products are being auctioned with particular haste as they are excess stock with expiry dates approaching fast. This includes both alcohol (premium wine, gin, whiskey and brandy) and soft drinks.
It remains to be seen whether or not South African’s auction will be a success. However, at such a financially challenging time for airlines worldwide, one has to praise their innovation in dreaming up this unlikely fundraiser.
What do you make of South African’s plans to raise money by auctioning onboard products? Are you tempted to place any bids? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.