South African Airways (SA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) welcomed back two of its A320-200s which arrived at Johannesburg O.R. Tambo on August 12, 2021, after having been in storage and having undergone C-Check maintenance at Abu Dhabi International during the carrier’s time in business rescue.

ZS-SZI (msn 6439) and ZS-SZJ (msn 6478) left Abu Dhabi on August 12 and operated via Dar es Salaam to arrive in Johannesburg in the late afternoon, Flightradar24 ADS-B data shows. They are both leased from Goshawk through Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) Letaba Aviation Leasing Ltd. The six-year-old aircraft have been part of the SAA fleet since 2015. The airline at one stage had 19 of the type in the fleet, according to the ch-aviation fleets history module.

“This is another noteworthy milestone towards full operational readiness. The image of two SAA aircraft landing and taxiing to their parking bays is a tangible manifestation of the hard work the airline’s staff are putting in,” commented interim chief executive Thomas Kgokolo.

The aircraft would undergo minimum routine maintenance and re-installation of mandatory SAA equipment in Johannesburg. Kgokolo said work continued in readying staff and "fine-tuning logistics" ahead of SAA’s return to service on a date still to be announced. He earlier said the airline would first restart cargo operations this month before resuming limited passenger services on South Africa's trunk routes.

After 16 months in administration, SAA exited business rescue on April 30, 2021, after receiving ZAR7.8 billion (USD556 million) of a ZAR10.5 billion (USD749 million) state bail-out. The balance was diverted to SAA's subsidiaries, Mango Airlines (MNO, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), SAA Technical, and Air Chefs.

Meanwhile, labour unions representing Mango employees will appeal a South African High Court decision on Monday which dismissed their urgent application to place the stricken airline in forced bankruptcy protection. Instead, the court ruled in favour of an application by the Mango board, supported by the board of SAA and the government as its shareholder, to place Mango into voluntary administration, effective from July 28, 2021.

The Mango Pilots Association (MPA), the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) had wanted to appoint their own administrator, arguing that the lengthy business rescue process of SAA had cost taxpayers millions in administrator fees.

“We want to ensure a genuine turn-around strategy which is not based on retrenchments, but on making the business viable in the long term. We also want to prevent another wasteful rescue process where consultants earned in excess of ZAR200 million rands (USD13.5 million), whilst workers were denied their salaries and starved for many months as a result. It is for all these reasons, and a desire to protect workers and their interests, that we have decided that we will be pursuing the matter further. We intend to appeal this judgement,” they said in a statement.

The unions had argued that Mango’s bid for voluntary administration had been invalid as the Board had decided on April 16, 2021, to place the airline into administration, but had waited until July 28, 2021, to file this resolution at South Africa’s Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission (CIPC). In terms of the country’s Companies Act, this should have been done within five days to take effect. The unions expressed concern the court’s ruling had set a “dangerous” legal precedent. “Companies will theoretically, be able to pass a business rescue resolution but never file it. As was the case with the Mango board, who sat on the resolution for three and half months. They can then effectively use it at a later date as a get out of jail free card, should a liquidation application be brought against the company,” they argued.

Lessor Aergen had filed for the liquidation of Mango in April but has withdrawn its application in light of the business rescue process.