Deepening Democracy through Access to Information
Home / Opinion / Latest Opinions RSS ← Back

Email this article

separate emails by commas, maximum limit of 4 addresses

Verification Image. Please refresh the page if you cannot see this image.

Sponsored by


Article Enquiry

South African Airways has lost billions in seven unprofitable years

Verification Image. Please refresh the page if you cannot see this image.

Embed Video

South African Airways has lost billions in seven unprofitable years

6th December 2018

By: Africa Check


Font size: -+

South Africa’s new finance minister, Tito Mboweni, has spoken openly about what needs to be done to solve the country’s economic problems.

He recently singled out the national airline, South African Airways (SAA), suggesting that the government should “close it down”.


In late November SAA’s interim chief financial officer, Deon Fredericks, told parliament that the airline had recorded a loss of R5.7-billion in the 2017/18 financial year.

News websites such as Business Live, The South African and Eyewitness News have reported that the airline last made a profit in 2011.


Africa Check pulled out SAA’s financial statements to check.

What do the numbers show?

The SAA group is 100% held by the state. It has four wholly-owned subsidiaries: Air Chefs, low-cost carrier Mango, South African Travel Centre and South African Airways Technical.

Africa Check pulled the group’s annual financial statements going back to 2011.

“Based on the figures, they haven’t made profits starting from the 2011/12 financial year,” Wayne Van Zijl, a senior lecturer in the School of Accountancy at Wits University, told Africa Check after reviewing the statements.

In 2010/11, the group made a profit of R782-million. The financial year runs from 1 April to 31 March the following year.

In 2016/17, the last financial year for which statements have been published, SAA made a loss of R5.6-billion.

Summary of SAA Group Annual Financial Statements Since 2010/11

Financial Year                                                 Profit/Loss

2010/11                                                            R782-million profit

2011/12                                                            R843-million loss

2012/13                                                            R1.2-billion loss

2013/14                                                            R2.6-billion loss

2014/15                                                            R5.6-billion loss

2015/16                                                            R1.5-billion loss

2016/17                                                            R5.6-billion loss

2017/18                                                            R5.7-billion loss*

* Reported to parliament in November 2018 by SAA

Many problems facing national carrier

Why has SAA lost so much money over the years? There is no one answer, according to Professor Rose Luke, a lecturer in the department of transport and supply chain management at the University of Johannesburg.

She pointed to less profitable routes, high maintenance costs and poor fleet management.

Head of economic and business sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, Jannie Rossouw, has argued that the airline’s financial situation is a result of “persistent mismanagement and cronyism” coupled with the South African government’s refusal to make “tough decisions about the company”.

Conclusion: SAA has not made a profit since the 2010/11 financial year

News websites have reported that South African Airways, the national airline, has not made a profit since 2011.

The airline’s annual financial statements show that this is correct. It was last in the green in 2010/11, when it made a profit of R782-million. According to the airline, it expects losses to continue in 2018/19 and 2019/20.

The airline told parliament that it hopes to break even by 2021.

Researched by Lloyd Hazvineyi, Africa Check, a non-partisan fact-checking organisation. View the original piece on their website


To subscribe email or click here
To advertise email or click here

Comment Guidelines

About is a product of Creamer Media.

Other Creamer Media Products include:
Engineering News
Mining Weekly
Research Channel Africa

Read more


We offer a variety of subscriptions to our Magazine, Website, PDF Reports and our photo library.

Subscriptions are available via the Creamer Media Store.

View store


Advertising on is an effective way to build and consolidate a company's profile among clients and prospective clients. Email

View options
Free daily email newsletter Register Now