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Tue 21 Jan 2020 12:13 PM

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Troubled South African Airways cancels flights, travel agency says

As many as 19 flights may have been cut, according to Flight Centre Travel Group

Troubled South African Airways cancels flights, travel agency says

SAA offers flights to more than 30 domestic and international destinations

The financial crisis at South African Airways deepened Tuesday with one of the nation’s largest travel agencies announcing that the airline had cancelled several domestic and international flights.

“We are in the process of contacting our customers to advise and assist,” Flight Centre Travel Group Ltd. said on Twitter. It didn’t provide further details. As many as 19 flights may have been cut, News24 cited Flight Centre as saying.

SAA will issue a statement later on Tuesday, its spokesman Tlali Tlali said.

The rand extended a decline after the news, weakening as much as 0.6% to 14.5914 per dollar, the weakest level in more than month.

The national carrier, which was placed into bankruptcy protection last month, is waiting for the government to fulfil a pledge to provide it with a 2 billion-rand ($138-million) financial lifeline that will enable it to keep flying. The Ministry of Public Enterprises, which oversees SAA, said work is still under way to raise the money.

SAA offers flights to more than 30 domestic and international destinations. It has posted losses since 2012 as it grapples with the high operating costs of an aging, inefficient jet fleet and a bloated workforce - as well as high taxes, political interference and corruption scandals.

While SAA’s Johannesburg base is a major international destination, its position at the southern end of the continent means it lacks the potential to become a major hub. The scope for profitable regional flights is limited by the relative poverty of neighbouring nations.

Efforts to establish a wider African business have had limited success as global giants including Dubai-based Emirates Airline and Turkish Airlines add dozens of sub-Saharan destinations and Ethiopian Airlines, the continent’s biggest carrier, turns Addis Ababa into a major hub.

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