Monday, March 12, 2018

Questions over Gupta role in SAA halting its flights to India

Johannesburg - Did the Guptas play a role in South African Airways (SAA) halting its flights to India, allowing Indian airline Jet Airways and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways to take over the bilateral arrangement between the two countries?
The SAA decision to suddenly shut down its Mumbai-Johannesburg route, which had a seat-load factor of 82% to 88%, in March 2015 intrigued the travel and tourism sector. SAA did not even give enough notice to tour operators who had booked flights until November 2015, tour operators say.

So why did SAA, in the name of streamlining its operation, abandon one of its routes that serviced the historical ties between India and South Africa? SAA claimed that the route was loss making, but industry sources say the seat-load factor tells another story.

According to an Indian foreign ministry source, the Guptas wanted to benefit Jet Airways.

It was Jet Airways from whom the Guptas chartered an aircraft to ferry guests from India to Johannesburg to attend a family wedding in 2013. That controversial event laid bare the Guptas' abuse of South African state facilities and infuriated South Africans.
After SAA withdrew from India, Jet Airways filled the slot. Now it carries passengers from India to Abu Dhabi and from there they are lifted by Etihad for their onward journey to South Africa.

Etihad bought a 24% stake in Jet Airways in late 2013 and has a code-sharing arrangement with SAA to fly the route.

By realigning these routes, alliance partners Etihad and Jet Airways have monopolised the India-South Africa route, which can only be challenged if SAA reclaims its bilateral arrangement with India, which seems unlikely.
11/03/18 IOL