A coterie of employees at South African Express (EXY, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) has implored the bankrupt carrier's sole shareholder, the South African Government, to oppose a liquidation motion on the grounds they have a business case which they believe to be viable.

Business rescue practitioners Phahlani Mkhombo and Daniel Terblanche filed an urgent application with the Gauteng High Court on Wednesday, March 25 to liquidate the airline given a lack of funding from the government. Before the COVID-19 crisis and a subsequent nationwide lockdown, the matter was to have been heard on April 28.

According to The Times newspaper, the employees asked Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan to oppose the motion and to take time to consider their case to help revive the now dormant carrier.

"We believe that a small, agile regional operator will be a tremendous asset to a recovering South African economy and see no reason it cannot be SA Express, with all its hard-won experience, its human assets and its world-class cadet training programme," the author of the letter, Willem van der Merwe, said.

One of the proposals was that SA Express lease A319-100s from fellow bankrupt parastatal South African Airways (SA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) to open up thin regional African routes. "From Johannesburg O.R. Tambo, it brings 120 seats to routes up to Nigeria, Somalia, Ethiopia, Angola, the DRC, etc. From Cape Town, it brings Angola into range, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, etc." the employees said in their letter.

The group went on to say that the retirement of SA Express's fleet of Dash 8-400s had rid the airline of an ill-suited type and that the reduction of its flight crew headcount from 247 to 107, and a similar reduction of its cabin crew by 50% had rendered SA Express a leaner and more cost-effective business.

Gordhan's spokesman Sam Mkokeli told The Times that the letter had been received and that the proposal would be given "the serious attention it calls for".