SA Express enters final liquidation, unopposed

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State-owned entity (SOE) SA Express will never take off again.

On Wednesday the South Gauteng High Court granted the final liquidation order, which was handed down without opposition.

SA Express was placed under provisional liquidation in April 2020, after the regional airline faced grave financial trouble, which at some point saw it unable to pay employee salaries.

Several attempts were made to try to rescue the airline from its financial woes, but none were successful.

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In 2021, airline employees made a bid to take over the airline through a worker-owned entity called Fly SAX, for the purchase price of R50 million. This was over R60 million less than what provisional liquidators had at the time valued the SOE at. However, the entity failed to get the necessary financial backing to seal the deal.

SA Express’s liquidation comes months after Comair business rescue practitioners (BRP) lodged their court application to have that airline liquidated.

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Comair owned and operated Kulula.com had a franchise agreement to operate local British Airways flights. Comair’s exit earlier this year left a significant gap in the market, reducing airline capacity by about 40%.

Market impact

Commenting on SA Express’s exit, SA Flyer magazine editor Guy Leitch says the airline’s official exit from the market will not have any real impact on the sector, as the airline has been out of the game for a long time.

“The airline went into provisional liquidation back in April of 2020. It hasn’t been flying for over two years, so the market has filled the gap. Other airlines, particularly Airlink and Cemair, have rapidly stepped into the gap left by SA Express.”

“In fact in many senses Airlink and Cemair were already competing on the same routes anyway, so there hasn’t been any loss of air connectivity flying to South Africa and the market won’t feel it at all,” he adds.

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