Airlink (South Africa) (4Z, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) has filed an urgent petition with the Gauteng High Court in which it is seeking to have South African Airways (SA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) creditors banned from voting on a turnaround plan, and have the bankrupt carrier liquidated.

Privately-owned Airlink claims it is owed at least ZAR700 million rand (USD40.4 million) in unpaid revenue by SAA for flights Airlink operated on SAA's behalf prior to and during SAA's entry into business rescue, a form of bankruptcy protection. The two airlines had a franchise agreement that ran from August 2000 to March this year after which time Airlink chose to sever the agreement in favour of independence.

While a Gauteng High Court initially dismissed Airlink's bid to sue the state-owned carrier, it has not relented in its efforts to recover the monies it is owed.

In this latest court application, slated to be heard on June 23, Airlink has asked for the court to bar a June 25 meeting in which creditors will vote on whether or not to accept SAA's turnaround plan.

Airlink argues the plan prejudices concurrent creditors, which include itself, to the benefit of SAA’s shareholder, the Department of Public Enterprises, which will then own an unencumbered business, funded by concurrent creditors, but still commercially insolvent. It also argues that the plan is impractical and unworkable given the current realities of the global aviation industry.

As part of the application, Airlink wants a December 5, 2019, decision placing SAA into business rescue set aside or alternatively, a declaration that the business rescue proceedings have ended due to the BRPs' failure to publish SAA's proposed turnaround plan within the required time to do so.

Airlink argues that at the time the decision to file for business rescue was taken, SAA's board could not have had reasonable grounds to believe that SAA stood any reasonable chance of being rescued. It has therefore asked for copies of all correspondence and/or documents pertaining to instructions or communication from SAA's shareholder (the South African Government) or the Minister of Public Enterprises to SAA's board of directors regarding placing the airline under business rescue or the prospects of rescuing it.

While it seeks to have SAA placed under provisional liquidation, in the event this is not granted, Airlink has asked that BRPs Leslie Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana be replaced within 10 days of an order being granted on the grounds that the BRPs are inadequately independent as defined by law.

In their statement, the BRPs said only that they would oppose the motion while the Department of Public Enterprises said it would oppose Airlink's application as well as two more suits labour unions NUMSA and SACCA were also in the process of filing in order to interdict the creditors' meeting.