South Africa’s High Court in Pretoria has delayed the liquidation proceedings of South African Express (XZ, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) until September 9, giving the government time to come up with solutions to save the embattled airline.

On June 9, the court ruled that that the state-owned carrier’s liquidation be postponed after the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA), and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) asked for a postponement, the unions said.

In papers filed in the High Court, and seen by Reuters, lawyers for the airline’s administrators said the delay in liquidation was necessary as the government may fund the airline’s reboot, citing an earlier allocation from the Department of Public Enterprises of ZAR164 million rand (USD10 million).

The lawyers said that postponing liquidation would allow “national executives to roll out proper plans,” and stop SA Express from losing its Air Operator’s Certificate, and Air Services Licence, which could help creditors to recover some money, according to Reuters.

NUMSA and SACCA said they remain “vehemently opposed” to the liquidation of the airline. “We believe that SA Express is a viable airline that can be saved, and every effort must be made to find alternatives. The judge granted the order on the basis that we approached the BRPs [business rescue practitioners] and the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) to engage and explore the possibility of an investor purchasing a stake in the airline,” they said in a statement on June 9.

“NUMSA and SACCA have secured a possible investor from the UAE [United Arab Emirates] who has expressed an interest in the airline. This extension will allow the investor to meet with the DPE, and hopefully come together on an agreement about the future of the airline. We remain committed to saving both South African Airways (SA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), and SA Express, and we will continue to do everything possible to save these airlines, and to save jobs.”

The unions did not say who the potential Emirati investor is. They added that SA Express employees have not been paid since the end of February, and have been protesting out of frustration, including a protest outside the Union Buildings on June 5. If SA Express closes, nearly 700 employees would lose their jobs.

SA Express entered bankruptcy protection in February and suspended operations in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was placed under provisional liquidation in April after its administrators said they could not secure funding for turnaround efforts. The liquidation postponement will give them more time to study the carrier’s affairs.

SA Express’s provisional liquidator, Aviwe Ndyamara of the Tshwane Trust Company, was due to appear before Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts on June 9, but was not available for a scheduled meeting to update the committee, News24 reported.