South African Airways is officially in business rescue - but what does that mean for you, if you are set to fly with the national carrier in the next week or so?
Right now, nothing. Your respective flights should go ahead as normal.
"The SAA flight schedule currently published remains in place and customers and the markets will be duly notified in the event there are operational changes. Any changes will be managed responsibly," says SAA spokesperson Tlali Tali.
While minister of public enterprises Pravin Gordhan confirmed on Thursday, 5 December that SAA will be placed under immediate business rescue, there was also assurance of R2bn ('not a bail-out') put in place to ensure the business rescue process is controlled and operations will continue as normal.
SAA has indicated it will be revising its operation schedule as business rescue proceedings get underway - but would communicate when anything changed accordingly.
If however you are wanting to err on the side of caution by cancelling your ticket you would be subject to a fee, depending on where you are departing from (Also the added cost of rebooking over the peak season).
The refund and cancellation conditions according to SAA's website are as follows:
- Administration Fees for cancellations for flight bookings departing from South Africa An Administration Fee of R285 will be charged per passenger in addition to any applicable cancellation or rebooking fee.
- Administration Fees for cancellations for flight bookings departing from Europe For all flight bookings made via flysaa.com , a Cancellation Administration Fee of EUR 30,-/CHF 50,-/USD 42,-/DKK 225/SEK 280/NOK 235 (depending on the currency used to pay for your ticket) will be charged per passenger in addition to any applicable cancellation or rebooking fee.
- Australia charges administration fee of AUD 50 for refund, rebooking, reissue and it is non - refundable. South America
- An administration fee of USD25 will be charged per passenger in addition to any applicable cancellation fee // In case of dates or itinerary changes, a fee of USD20 will be charged per passenger in addition to any fare difference or/and rebooking fee, according to the applicable fare rule.
You can contact their call centre for full assistance on 0861 606 606 or 011 978 1111 - or visit the SAA website here.
READ: SAA revises schedule as business rescue gets underway with added R2bn lifeline
How does your insurance cover you in the even your ticket is cancelled during the business rescue period?
This is where reading your fine print comes in - as insurance is the friend that has your back during any flight cancellation.
However, one of South Africa’s largest Online Travel Agents (OTA), Flight Centre says its position to pull South African Airways flights from its online inventory remains unchanged.
According to a statement issued by Flight Centre last week, the move was done, as its preferred Travel Insurance Provider, Travel Insurance Consultants (TIC) are no longer willing to cover SAA under their Travel Supplier Insolvency benefit, due to doubts concerning the long-term viability of the airline.
At the time Flight Centre "advised that a number of other global insurers have taken a similar approach”.
UPDATE: Flight Centre continues ban on SAA flights, as business rescue process starts
However, as a Traveller, taking out the right cover cannot be stressed enough. For instance – when the SAA week-long strike hit, affected travellers were covered, even though they were admittedly sorely inconvenienced.
Travellers were also give the option to be reimbursed by the airline, or they could opt to rebook within a specific period of travel – with travel insurance they were covered under the “travel delay and missed connection benefits due to an unexpected, unforeseen strike”.
Usually, insurance policies include cover for cancellations with reimbursements for a percentage of the cancellation costs of any pre-paid, non-refundable travel and accommodation. Cover is then also provided for the additional cost of meals and accommodation, according to Uriah Jansen, Head of Hollard Travel. At the end of November the insurance provider also decided to no longer cover SAA travel for insolvency.
Hollard has not confirmed if this position would change now that the airline is in business rescue.
While the strike was an unforeseen event, the financial crisis of the national carrier is far from unknown – and undertaking business rescue measures, even with a R2bn lifeline from the state, it does not mean SAA will be entirely revived to a position of financial safety. The airline stressed that Mango operations will not be affected in this process.
Either way - travel insurance provides peace of mind that when things do go wrong.
What to do if you flight gets cancelled under normal circumstances:
A cancelled flight can play havoc with your travel plans. It can also mean you have to hang around the airport for additional hours or even have to find somewhere to spend the night until you’re put on a new flight. Luckily, you know SAA's flights are cancelled now ahead of time.
The key thing is to always stay in contact with your airline, know your conditions of carriage as well check what coverage your travel insurance guarantees you if any.
Delays, cancellations and rerouting
While delays, cancellations and rerouting may form part of schedule changes, most airlines have a separate clause in their contract of carriage, stipulating their stance on these.
SAA, Mango, BA and Kulula have very similar policies where these are concerned.
While these airlines do clearly state that they will endeavour to avoid delay in carrying you and your baggage, the chance always exists that this will happen.
In this case, the airlines mentioned above offer a choice of three different remedies:
1. they will carry you at the earliest opportunity on another of their scheduled services with space available without additional charge
2. re-route you within reasonable time to the destination shown on your ticket either using their own services or that of another carrier
3. make a refund in accordance with the conditions mentioned in the above section on schedule changes.
While it may seem like a bit of a schlep at the time, make sure you're familiar with your rights regarding schedule changes, delays, cancellations and rerouting before purchasing a ticket with an airline. Most airlines have "conditions of carriage" document on their websites, so go check it out.
Sign up for flight alerts
Some airlines give you the option of receiving flight alerts via SMS, or you can go onto their website to check the status of your flight as well as follow their various social media accounts, including that of the airport you're visiting.
- @ORTambo_int- @capetownint- @KingShakaInt
Watch the weather
If you’re flying during periods when you know the weather might be a problem, keep an eye on forecasts in the couple of days before you travel. If things look hairy, be aware that your flight could be affected and prepare for that eventuality by packing a set of fresh clothes plus some distractions (reading matter or games, for instance) into your hand luggage.
Take actual action
If your flight is cancelled, you’re basically in the hands of the airline and most airlines try their best to get you on the next available flight to your destination, even if it isn’t on one of their planes. This applies to your checked baggage too – travel agents advise that airlines will do its best to make sure it ends up on the same new flight that you do.
If your flight was booked through an agent, you can phone the agent and leave it to them to find out what’s going on and advise you on what your next steps will be, including any new flights.
Otherwise, go ahead and take action yourself: get in line at the desk to sort out a new flight – but at the same time, use your cellphone to phone the airline’s customer service centre. Then deal with whomever gets to you first.
Social media has made it possible to talk to the authorities concerned directly. Go online to see if you can rebook your ticket electronically.
Schedule changes - Know your airline's conditions of carriage
In most 'conditions of carriage' airlines stipulate that, provided the passenger provides thorough contact details, they will try to communicate any schedule changes as soon as they are aware of them.
However, no promises are made in this regard and passengers may reach the airport only to receive the unhappy news.
The remedies for the inconvenience differ from airline to airline and, as you can imagine, offering a refund is their very last resort.
British Airways and Kulula's contract states that they will only provide a refund for passengers put out by a schedule change in the following case: if after you bought a ticket they make a significant change to the departure time of your flight (significant is anything more than three hours), you find it unacceptable and they (or an authorized agent) cannot book you on a flight you are prepared to accept.
SAA and Mango state the following: "If, after you purchase your Ticket, we make a significant change to the scheduled flight time, which is not acceptable to you, and we are unable to book you on an alternative flight which is acceptable to you, you will be entitled to a refund."
The refund is only paid if the following conditions apply: SAA/Mango cancels a flight, fails to operate a flight reasonably according to schedule, fails to stop at your destination or stopover, or causes you to miss a connecting flight on which you hold a reservation.
In the latter case, if a portion of the ticket has been used, the refund will be the difference between the fare paid and the applicable fare for travel between the points for which the ticket had been used.
Kill time the usual way
The hours can seem to stretch emptily ahead of you if you’re waiting at an airport to be put on another flight. Make sure you’ve got a book or magazine in your hand luggage, and that your laptop, smartphone or MP3 player is fully charged. If you end up with nothing to read or listen to, and you’re in a bigger airport that has shops and spas, go window shopping or (if you’ve got the bucks) get a back, foot or facial massage. If all else fails, strike up a conversation with your fellow stranded passengers – who knows, you could make a new friend.
Kill time the unusual way
• Stretch. If you don’t mind a few funny looks, a mini-workout not only uses up time but is also good for you. If that takes you too far out of your comfort zone, find a quiet corner and meditate for a while.
• See the sights. If you’ve got the time and the transport, leave the airport and explore the surrounds. But allow plenty of time for traffic jams and queues that may gobble up precious minutes.
• Catch a few Zs. Not everyone likes sleeping in airports, but if you’re one of the lucky ones who can drop off anywhere, set your phone to wake you up in a couple of hours, stretch out (if you’re in an airport that provides loungers) and snooze. If the thought of sleeping in public horrifies you, find out what it will cost to stay over at the nearest airport lodge – sometimes it’s surprisingly cheap for what you get (a shower, a bed and transport to and fro, for instance). Some airlines do compensate delayed passengers for meals and accommodation.
• Have a meal. Use the time to have a leisurely meal, even if it’s at a less-than-gourmet chain – it’ll still make a nice change from grabbing a burger to go.• Play a game. Pack travel Scrabble or Backgammon and play it with your travel companion or, if you’re flying solo, challenge a fellow passenger to a game.
• Strum your guitar. If you’re travelling with a musical instrument, and you’re not crowd-shy, you could entertain yourself and others with an impromptu one-man concert.
Do you get your money back?
Different airlines have varying policies regarding compensation for cancelled or delayed flights, including for the ticket itself, and additional costs like meals and accommodation – enquire about this when you book your ticket.
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