South African Express (EXY, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) has been forced to suspend operations after the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), on Saturday, April 30, suspended its AOC citing safety concerns.

The regulatory body said in a statement that recent inspections had shown the carrier was non-compliant with several local aviation regulations in addition to possessing unsatisfactory safety monitoring systems. Its proposed corrective action plan was also found to be inadequate.

"The SACAA wishes to point out that recent inspections and audits on the airline’s operations have pointed to inefficient safety monitoring systems, and some level of failure by the operator to satisfactorily address concerns raised by the Regulator," it said. "The SACAA views the inefficiency of the safety monitoring systems in a serious light as it poses serious safety hazards and risks to the crew, passengers, and the public at large. For this reason, the Regulator cannot allow the operator to continue with operations until such time that the identified safety concerns are adequately addressed."

Airline CEO Inati Ntshanga said that South African Express was currently in talks with SACAA to resolve the issues but could offer no time frame as to when operations would resume.

South African Express operates an all-Bombardier Aerospace (BBA, Montréal Trudeau) fleet of eleven CRJ200s, two CRJ700s, and ten Dash 8-400s on scheduled passenger flights throughout South Africa as well as to neighbouring Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Strapped for cash and burdened with high debt levels, the airline recently turned to its sole shareholder, the South African government, for funding to aid its fleet renewal programme.