The South African Airways (SAA) business rescue plan (BRP) has been approved by 86% of the vote at Tuesday’s creditors' meeting. This paves the way for the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) to launch a new airline with an interim board and CEO.
The “New” SAA will once again call on the taxpayer to provide the funds in the form of a R16 billion injection to get off the ground and pay creditors. Money will also be needed for the 1,000 staff who will be hired to be part of the new airline.
Phillip Saunders has been appointed as the interim CEO that will be responsible for the implementation of the latest plan. He will be required to work closely with the new and reconfigured interim board, which will be announced in the coming days the DPE, to appoint an interim management team. The team must then implement the fundamental restructuring of SAA. In supporting the plan, the government is committed to mobilising the necessary resources to fund the transition. This includes the Voluntary Severance Packages (VSPs) agreed with the unions, and meet the minimum requirements of the Labour Relations Act and Basic Conditions of Employment Act, This alone is estimated to cost the taxpayer R2.7 billion.
Who is Phillip Saunders?
The DPE has described Mr Saunders as an experienced airline executive with a strong commercial background. According to Acting Director-General of the Department of Enterprises Kgathatso Tlhakudi, Phillip Saunders has a credible track record of leading airlines around the world, and his last position before joining SAA, was at the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
According to Phillip Saunders’ LinkedIn profile, the SAA interim CEO’s experience is vast. Phillip Saunders has experience as chief commercial officer for Kuwait Airways, as well as, Air Malta. He was also the CEO for Caribbean Airlines, according to the profile.
The profile reads:
“Experienced commercial C-level leader with global experience in airlines, alliance services and IT sectors. Entrepreneurial and visible leader, committed and resilient, delivering business turnarounds, leading service excellence, strong cultural awareness, multi-lingual (fluent English, French & German and reasonable Russian).”
Skills include strategic planning, people leadership, Sales, Marketing, Distribution, Operations, negotiations and stakeholder management. Personal interests include film production and radio presenting.
We wish Phillip and his team all the best and sincerely hope he is afforded the latitude to do what is necessary to finally relive the SA Taxpayer the burden of carrying the can for the failures of SAA and its previous incompetent management teams.