In search of a recipe for success for a national airline, South Africa looks towards Switzerland. The regional airline Airlink offers itself as a South African Crossair.
South Africa is debating what should happen with the insolvent South African Airways and what a successor airline could look like. Tito Mboweni referred to the example of Swissair in parliament on Tuesday. The former Swiss national airline had collapsed and «from its ashes emerged Swiss International», the Finance Minister said.
South Africa could also move in this direction. Airlink boss Rodger Foster is now taking up the Swiss example. Swissair was grounded in 2002, but its subsidiary Crossair took over as the new national airline under the name Swiss, according to the portal Tourism Update. Crossair was a regional carrier for Swissair at the time, «similar to Airlink for SAA» he says, referring to his own regional airline.
Airlink can imagine Mango takeover
According to Foster, South African Airways has its low-cost subsidiary Mango as a possible rescue vehicle. «But Mango is too close to SAA and would be subject to the same onerous labour agreements». The Airlink CEO recommends a clear break.
This could either be done by a completely new airline with its own licenses or by a company like Airlink, which could jump into the gap left by the SAA. «For example, we could buy Mango and start a new business that works.»
Thinking the example through to the end
Airlink is currently a regional airline with a fleet of almost 50 aircraft, most of which are Embraer E145 and E190. In January, Airlink and South African Airways terminated their long-standing franchise agreement and replaced it with an interline agreement.
With regard to Swiss, Foster now also points out that it was taken over by Lufthansa a few years later. He did not say what this could mean for his settlement with SAA and Airlink. However, Africa’s largest airline Ethiopian Airlines had already shown interest in South African Airways last autumn.