Highly indebted regional airline SA Express on Wednesday announced it was suspending operations with immediate effect.

SAX has accumulated losses estimated at R1.2bn in the past decade.

“In light of adverse recent developments, including the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, SA Express announces that it will suspend operations from March 18 2020, until further notice,” the airline said in a statement.

Passengers will be accommodated on alternative flights.

All non-critical SA Express staff will be placed on compulsory leave.

“The airline will utilise this period to review its current network and streamline operations for improved efficiency,” it added.

In the February budget, finance minister Tito Mboweni said SA would have to decide if it still wanted to continue owning it, “given that it has a limited role in the local aviation market”.

In September 2019, SAX received a government bailout of R300m to ease its operational and financial challenges. 

In February, the airline became the second state-owned airline after SAA to go into business rescue after an order of the high court.

My prediction is that FlySafair will purchase SA Express if they are given the chance. It would be a massive benefit to FlySafair and will put them in a good position to compete directly with SAA on domestic and regional flights. FlySafair have already stated that they would consider buying Mango Airlines from South African Airways.

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