Safair – An airline during COVID-19 and South African lockdown


Safair – An airline during COVID-19 and South African lockdown

Source: FlySafair website

By now we are all aware of the devastating impact COVID-19 has on all our lives but ever wondered how this will impact an airline? Also, now that South Africa is on the brink of level 4 (instead of level 5) restrictions, how will the airlines start operations again?

Aviation Central approached one of the great success stories within the South African aviation, Safair or FlySafair for most, and asked them a few questions. A big thank you to Elmar Conradie, CEO at Safair Operations (Pty) Ltd and Kirby Gordon Executive Manager & CMO at Safair Operations (Pty) Ltd for taking the time and making effort to answer our questions.

Elmar Conradie – Source: FlySafair website Kirby Gordon – Source: FlySafair website

COVID-19 is having a huge impact on many industries, aviation being one of them. We know the entire FlySafair fleet is in hibernation but Safair is in fact still operating, few knowing of this, and earing money and helping others by flying cargo. Can you please tell us a bit more about this?

“Yes, our ACMI division (Aircraft. Crew. Maintenance. Insurance) is still in operation. We have five aircraft currently operating in different parts of Africa doing the Humanitarian Aid and Relief work that we usually do. That part of the business continues.”

Many do not know that Safair has L100-30’s. How many are there currently within the fleet, where do they mostly operate and what does the future hold for these ladies?

“Yes we have 5 in the fleet currently. Four are in operation with one in maintenance. These aircraft operate in various parts of Africa on long-term contracts for our humanitarian aid and relief clients. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the work these clients do, I can’t be more specific about their whereabouts upon the request of our clients. As it stands we see this work continuing for now – this business which is essential in its nature, has not been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Source: FlySafair website

When South Africa beats COVID-19, and we will, what would be the process for getting operational again? What steps will need to be taken to wake up the fleet from a practical and technical perspective? How long will this take and when do you foresee the first flight departing?

“Our aircraft have been placed into a 30-day storage program as per manufacturer instruction, and are parked at their various home bases at OR Tambo International, Cape Town International and King Shaka International. At the end of their 30 days they’ll have the necessary procedures run on them to either further their storage, or prep them for a more active state of rest during which they would need engines runs performed etc. The process doesn’t take too long, we imagine that we would be able to “wake” everything we’ll need for the first day of flying in about 1 working day.”

Will the general public see a full schedule on start up again?

“No, we will start off with a reduced schedule and increase as demand grows which we hope will be quickly.”

Follow up to last, if a reduced schedule is to be implemented how long will it take before the full schedule is implemented?

“We wish we knew to be honest. It’s all dependent on the market demand factors.”

What measures have been put into place to ensure the fleet and staff stay current in terms of laws and regulations? Any relaxations from SACAA side?

“No relaxations, no. We’ve had to ensure that we continue with the essentials during this period in that regard including an SACAA audit, which went smoothly.”

We see in the UK and other countries that cabin crew are joining with medical forces as they have basic first aid training. If there is a need for additional hands within the medical field, is this something Safair may also consider?

“Yes. We’ve reached out to see what benefit our crew can offer and while their first aid training is useful, they still fall into a “non-medical” volunteer category. Several of them have signed up with the various volunteer networks and will be called on if help is needed in their local areas.”

What steps were taken to ensure the fleet is safe in terms of sanitizing them before lock down? To prevent any bacteria etc from harbouring inside the aircraft?

“The manufacturer recommendations for the 30-day program include a number of sanitation and cleaning measures, but in addition we’ve secured some excellent anti-bacterial and anti-viral cleaning agents that are aviation approved. So cabins and decks were thoroughly cleaned and then treated with these compounds using an electrostatic spraying application.”

We do not hope we have another COVID-19 but in preparing for the future, with the measures implemented with COVID-19 which one of these will you consider making a permanent procedure going forward?

“We’ve developed a great new offer, which was in the pipeline anyway, but now has a new lease on life, in the form of a “block the middle seat” option. It was to be sold as a business class style upgrade which customers could purchase to ensure space and privacy during their journey, but we’ve developed the tech and are going to launch it at a reduced rate as a social distancing option for now.”

Seeing we are on the future: what are the FlySafair plans for the current fleet?

“We want to fly it! Before this we had a full domestic schedule which we were very excited to execute and we want to work back up to that.”

Will we maybe see a full service like business class on FlySafair?

“No, not a full service business class with different seating – but perhaps an augmentation on the “build-it-yourself” solution as described above.”

And any international plans?

“Not at this stage, no.”

Everyone has their favourite favourite and FlySafair is this favourite for many including us at Aviation Central. One thing is for sure… we all want to see airlines flying again and it is great knowing that airlines like Safair is indeed keeping an eye on the future and still want to bring the best to their clients, while looking at their employees as far as possible.

We cannot wait to see you again as you are vital to that dream weekend away, our holidays taking us to that wedding/event and more importantly to seeing our families and loved ones.

Blue skies to all Safair and other aviation industry related employees!


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