Argentina's ambassador to South Africa, Carlos Sersale di Cerisano, has criticized South African Airways’ (SAA’s) move to end its service to Buenos Aires as a political decision not based on commercial criteria. SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali said the airline was cutting long-haul routes from its network as part of a turnaround strategy to restore profitability. Cutting the route between Argentina and South Africa had to be seen in that context.
Projections are that the termination will take effect in the new calendar year, Mr Tlali said in an e-mail. SAA identified two international destinations, namely Beijing and Buenos Aires, to cease operating in.
Decisions of this nature are dependent on the concurrence of the shareholder. We have canvassed the shareholder views in both cases and were successful in the case of Buenos Aires only. This means we will continue to fly to Beijing.
South Africa is part of BRICS, the political and trade bloc comprising Brazil, Russia, India and China and South Africa, with the most modest position in the bloc, and is eager to cement its place in the grouping.
Beijing and São Paulo are destinations to two of the Brics member states , Mr Tlali said. Even more, China is the number one trade partner for South Africa. We will provide a comprehensive account as to why we pull out of certain routes once our consultations have been finalized .”
South African Department of Public Enterprises spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete said the decision to cut the Buenos Aires route had been a commercial decision as the route was losing about R50m (approx 5m dollars) a year. The department supported the move.
The Beijing route, which loses about R300m (30m dollars), was being kept for strategic and development reasons, Mr Tshwete said.
SAA was retaining the Brazil route because it had larger volumes and was a bigger hub for traffic from the South American continent. ”Sao Paulo is more a strategic route because it’s a bigger hub (than Buenos Aires),” Mr Tshwete said.
Ambassador Sersale di Cerisano said when comparing the commercial performance of the Buenos Aires-to-Johannesburg route and the Sao Paulo-to-Johannesburg one, it was clear that both were losing money. But the Argentine route lost less. The Buenos Aires route could make money if operated with more fuel-efficient aircraft.