State-owned enterprise (SOE) SA Express will never fly again.

On Wednesday, the South Gauteng High Court issued a final winding-up order, which was handed down without opposition.

SA Express was temporarily wound up in April 2020 after the regional airline faced serious financial problems, which at one point left it unable to pay staff salaries.

Several attempts were made to save the airline from financial problems, but none of them were successful.

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In 2021, the airline’s employees made a bid to buy the airline through the worker-owned organization Fly SAX for 50 million rand. This was more than 60 million rand less than the provisional liquidators had valued the state-owned enterprise at the time. However, the organization was unable to obtain the necessary financial support to conclude the deal.

The liquidation of SA Express comes months after business rescue specialists Comair (BRP) filed for liquidation of the airline.

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That’s how long Comair needed to keep flying, owned and operated by Comair, has entered into a franchise agreement to operate local British Airways flights. Comair’s exit earlier this year left a significant gap in the market, reducing airline capacity by around 40%.

Impact on the market

Commenting on SA Express’ exit, SA Flyer magazine editor Guy Leitch says the airline’s formal exit from the market will have no real impact on the sector as the airline has been out of the game for a long time.

“The airline was tentatively liquidated in April 2020. It hasn’t flown in over two years, so the market has filled the gap. Other airlines, notably Airlink and Cemair, quickly filled the gap left by SA Express.”

“In fact, in many ways, Airlink and Cemair were already competing on the same routes, so there was no loss of air connectivity on flights to South Africa, and the market will not feel it at all,” he adds.

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