Airlink (South Africa) (4Z, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) has welcomed a High Court order that South African Airways (SAA) must "delete, destroy, and not use" confidential commercial information obtained by a former executive before she departed the airline to join the South African flag carrier.

"Airlink is satisfied with the court outcome today and the relief it provides with the order that SAA must delete, destroy, and not use any of Airlink's intellectual property in any way," commented CEO and Managing Director Rodger Foster. "The outcome also confirms the seriousness and validity of our case against [former executive manager of sales and marketing Carla] da Silva, SAA, and the other respondents," he noted.

The order from the Gauteng division of the High Court of South Africa on April 16 was in response to an urgent interdict application (case number 2024-031049) filed by Airlink on March 20 against Da Silva, SAA, and ten former Airlink employees who also recently joined SAA.

Airlink seeks to prevent them from using or disclosing confidential information copied from its database about its contracts with travel agencies and travel management consortiums, along with the financial values of these relationships.

High Court judge David Unterhalter ordered that SAA, Da Silva, and the ten other former employees must:

  • delete, remove, and destroy all electronic copies of a Microsoft Excel file containing Airlink's customer database, which Da Silva had emailed to the other respondents on October 29, 2023, and which was currently in their possession at SAA;
  • delete, remove, and destroy all electronic copies of the file or any pieces of information contained therein in any derivative form, including SAA's consolidated database as of November 14, 2023, currently in possession of the SAA respondents.

The judge also ordered SAA to provide an affidavit by April 17, 2024, confirming that:

  • save for copies kept as evidence, the documentation in the SAA respondents' possession has been deleted and destroyed, and the information has not been and will not be used by SAA or its employees for any purpose whatsoever either before or after the circulation of the document on October 29, 2023;
  • SAA has removed all electronic copies of the file or any pieces of information contained therein from any derivative form in the possession of the respondents.

The case was adjourned "sine die", costs were reserved, and the matter was removed from the urgent court to the ordinary roll, meaning it will still come to court but at a later date to be announced.

In a subsequent statement, SAA also welcomed the court order, pointing out it was mutually agreed to by the parties, without any admission of guilt by the respondents. "SAA contends that it does not need information from any other airline to run its operations and that the information Airlink claims to have proprietary rights to is generally available on airline industry platforms," it said.

"SAA is pleased with the conclusion of this matter. In the event that Airlink elects to take the matter further, SAA will vigorously defend its case," said SAA's interim CEO John Lamola. "As a responsible national flag carrier with an interest to promote a vibrant and competitive South African airline industry, SAA is pursuing its internal processes in dealing with all aspects of Airlink's allegations. These processes are now subject to the sub judice rule, as the matter is being litigated in court."