South African Airways (SA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) will cut capacity at its mainline operation as part of an overall downsizing of the carrier's network. The changes are part of the cash-strapped airline’s implementation of its newly developed five-year turnaround plan, its eleventh, that seeks to return the company to financial sustainability in the shortest time possible.

To that end, the chairman of the SAA Pilots Association, Jimmy Conroy, told Moneyweb in an interview that the pilot corps had been informed that SAA's fleet could be reduced by up to 20%.

“We were advised at a meeting in early August that they planned to reduce their current fleet of 65 aircraft by as much as 10,” he said.

SAA operates fifty-five aircraft of which twenty-seven - seven A319-100s, twelve A320-200s, two B737-300(F)s (a third is leased from Star Air (South Africa)), and six B737-800s - are narrowbodies with the other twenty-eight - six A330-200s, five A330-300s, eight A340-300s, and nine A340-600s - widebodies. Its budget unit, Mango Airlines (JE, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), operates ten B737-800s

According to Conroy, SAA's current plan will see it returning five wide-body aircraft to lessors while four narrowbody jets will be placed with other airlines.

SAA has already confirmed plans to downsize its fleet but has thus far avoided naming exact figures. In terms of network reach, select destinations will still be served by SAA albeit via codeshare with its affiliate carriers such as Airlink (South Africa) (4Z, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo).

"South African Airways (SAA) confirms that it will introduce network changes on the domestic and regional segments of its route network," spokesman Tlali Tlali said. "The changes relate to the replacement of SAA’s own metal service on certain routes and not total withdrawal. SAA will leverage its partnership with its sister airlines and will still maintain its SA code in those markets."

Moneyweb previously quoted a tentative SAA Summer 2017/18 schedule which purportedly showed that 175 weekly flights would be cut from late October onwards. Among the domestic towns that could be transferred to Airlink include Port Elizabeth and East London while regional African destinations that may be slated for termination include Brazzaville, Pointe Noire, Libreville, Blantyre, Lilongwe, Kinshasa N'Djili, and Kigali. SAA did not comment on the accuracy of the report.