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Travel: SAA Strengthens Crew Complement to Bolster Growth Plans


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South African Airways (SAA) has strengthened its cabin crew and pilot complement in line with the improved utilisation of its aircraft and future growth plans, having employed an additional 65 pilots this year.

As part of its restructuring process, the airline has significantly increased the utilisation of its existing fleet of aircraft by increasing capacity on a number of routes, particularly in Africa. This has required the increase of additional pilots and cabin crew.

In addition, the airline announced last week that it would launch a route to Buenos Aires, in Argentina, on 8^th April 2009, initially flying there twice a week on Wednesdays and Sundays, with a third frequency to be added in July on Fridays.

“We are entering the last phase of our restructuring plans which will be completed by March next year and we are now at the point where we can think about growth in order to position SAA for the future,” says SAA CEO Khaya Ngqula.

“We know that our pilots are amongst the best in the world, having received world class training and with extensive experience. Our cabin crew members consistently receive accolades from around the world as being friendly, helpful and highly competent. Indeed, in August our cabin crew was named best Cabin Crew in Africa in the latest World Airline Awards based on an independent survey of 15-million passengers from around the world,” he says.

Since January this year 128 cabin crew members have been brought on board, with an additional 54 being trained. The airline also employed 65 pilots from April to December this year with the intention of ensuring that it has sufficient crew to operate current aircraft and new routes planned such as the Buenos Aires route. SAA now employs a total of 775 pilots.

The focus is on utilising cabin crew who have experience in the airline and travel industry, individuals who take pride in personal grooming and who place customer service foremost. The selection process is thorough and involves a number of different levels, including medical and security checks.

“Excellent customer service is a critical element of our plans going forward, and our cabin crew plays a crucial role at the frontline of the business,” says Ngqula.

There has been excellent progress made on customer service under the restructuring programme. SAA’s latest customer service survey shows that the level of customer satisfaction with the airline’s service levels at airports has increased almost 10% over the past six months. There has been a significant increase in satisfaction levels with cabin crew in particular, and the airline is perceived as being safe and reliable in all markets – domestic, regional and international.

SAA has also embarked on a drive to ensure that customer comments about the service they receive on board are collected through a customer service survey, where customers can give their input to ensure the airline corrects any shortcomings.

The employment of additional pilots will also ensure that SAA has sufficient pilots to operate its fleet going forward, given the airline’s growth plans. “Flying for SAA is a career goal for many professional South African pilots. It is the ultimate,” says Captain Johnny Woods, SAA’s chief pilot.

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