South African Airways Grounds All Flights As CEO Resigns

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South African Airways will be grounding all domestic flights from tomorrow as its home nation steps up its anti-coronavirus measures. The airline also announced today that its acting CEO Zuks Ramasia, who has held the position since June 2019, will be leaving the airline next month.

South African Airways, Flight Cancellations, Cash Worries
South African Airways has been struggling to implement a strategic plan which aims to return it to profitability. Now it also has to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Getty

South African Airways is the latest airline to ground all flights as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. South Africa’s state-owned flag carrier announced it would be grounding all domestic flights on Tuesday, following the South African government’s decision to implement a 21-day lockdown on Monday night.

South Africa’s nationwide lockdown

Like many other countries across the world, South Africa has decided to implement a full lockdown to help slow the spread of coronavirus. The lockdown will go into effect from tomorrow, 27 March. As a result of the full lockdown, South African Airlines has also been forced to cancel its domestic flights.

In a statement published on its website, South African Airways says it, “supports this national effort as announced by the government, to retard, contain, manage and disrupt the rate of transmission of the COVID-19.”

South Africa’s lockdown will last for an initial period of 21 days, hence the grounding of all South African Airways flights until 16 April. Since the announcement of the grounding of all domestic flights on Tuesday, the airline has been operating its remaining scheduled flights as normal. Customers have been entitled to one free change of travel bookings during this period.

Throughout the duration of the lockdown, from 27 March until 16 April, South African Airways says its call centers will be closed, but customers can contact the airline via its email channels.

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Last week, following the declaration of a State of Disaster in South Africa, South African Airways announced it would be halting all international flights until at least 31 May 2020.

South African Airways Airbus A340
South African Airways will not operate any domestic flights until at least 16 April. Photo: Joe Ravi via Wikimedia Commons

Bad timing for a high-profile resignation

Unfortunately for South African Airways, it announced today that acting CEO Zuks Ramasia has handed in her resignation. Although she will stay in her current position for the majority of the nationwide lockdown, Ramasia will be leaving the airline permanently on 14 April. She will depart for early retirement after a 27-year career with South African Airways.

Her remarkable rise to the position of acting CEO started when she joined the airline as a cabin crew member back in 1992. After promotion through the ranks, she assumed the role of acting CEO following the resignation of Vuyani Jarana at the beginning of June last year.

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South African Airways Airbus A320
South African Airways will now also have to find a new CEO. Photo: Bob Adams via Flickr

In a statement released today, Acting Chairperson of the SAA Board, Thandeka Mgoduso, said,

“We extend our sincerest gratitude to Zuks for her contribution at SAA and wish her success in her future endeavors.”

The timing of Ms Ramasia’s resignation couldn’t be much worse for South African Airways, which now has to deal with the global coronavirus pandemic, as well as struggling to implement its turnaround strategy. South African Airways’ board says it will make an announcement on her interim successor in due course.

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