Fly SA Express at your peril

Open letter to the CEO of SA Express

Dear Mr Ntshanga

I stopped flying SA Express a few years ago after repeat problems but, for my recent trip to Hoedspruit, SA Express was the only option. And so, when my outbound flight was delayed and the return flight cancelled, I was instantly taken back to those bad days.

sa express

I guess we all expect really bad service from SA Express these days – and your staff seem resigned to that fact. Apart from the resultant stress, extra costs and those stale nuts you import from China, what really incensed me was the arrogance of the way your team deals with these issues and the impregnable wall of protection you have built between yourselves and aggrieved clients. Regarding the delay on the first flight your staff suggested that I contact the supervisor, who “is currently not available, but would be available in 2 days” (2 days after my flight).  In the case of the cancelled direct flight to Cape Town and subsequent rerouting on much later flights via Johannesburg, the staff at the airport said they could not help me as they were merely agents, and your call centre advised my personal assistant that “all supervisors are in a meeting and unable to assist”.

Both sets of your staff told me very firmly that SA Express does not refund clients for costs incurred due to changes – even when clients paid a premium for direct flights and did not receive that benefit. That, Mr Ntshanga, is theft.

As to why the changes were made, various SA Express staff advised us that the changes were due to low passenger numbers, but some later blamed technical issues – even pulling the classic “your safety is important to us” line.

When I attempted to contact you directly, your team refused access and shepherded my requests to a PR person, who broadcast the standard corporate speak at me. I was assured of follow up from your team – which of course never happened. A week later I am still waiting for resolution.

This country deserves better than this. You and your team are surely generating large amounts of negative equity for our passionate tourism industry. How many of our precious local and international tourists and business people have you and your team left stranded, angry and out of pocket? An informal request to my personal network on Facebook resulted in numerous sad stories of shocking service from SA Express, and refusal to refund costs.

My advice to clients and friends is to avoid using SA Express, if they can.

Simon Espley

CEO, Africa Geographic

Simon Espley

Simon Espley is an African of the digital tribe, a chartered accountant and CEO of Africa Geographic. His travels in Africa are in search of wilderness, real people with interesting stories and elusive birds. He lives in Cape Town with his wife Lizz and 2 Jack Russells, and when not travelling or working he will be on his mountain bike somewhere out there. His motto is "Live for now, have fun, be good, tread lightly and respect others. And embrace change". The views expressed in his posts are his own. Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

  • Daisydot

    For what SA Expresses charges, you can just as well fly to Vic Falls return. Their flights don’t come cheap …cheeky in fact

  • Lucaso

    Unfortunately SA Express is a state-owned airline and relies on government bailouts, not customer satisfaction, to keep it going. Private carriers have mostly been forced out of the market. Use the private airline Comair (Kulula and British Airways) whenever possible.

  • Heather Franklin

    Amen!!! I’d be going Kulula or Mango as well

    • Ron Zimmer

      The word is out in the USA..Many of us here a talking about other airlines there..and besides that fact….flying other airlines to get there…just days ago that is exactly what happened…

    • Mike Hawkins

      Mango is SAA!

  • Heather Franklin

    And traveling on SA is no picnic either. When you have the option to pay $1300 and have rude staff or fly Virgin or British and pay $900 with friendly staff, better food and nicer aircraft…hmmmmm….no brainer for me 🙂

  • Gillian Gordon

    Unfortunately they are the only option for Hoedspruit. My greatest wish, other smaller airlines would tender. I have had many complaints from guests who fly in. Very bad for Tourism.

  • Mike Thomas

    Could I suggest flying into Hoedspruit with Federal Air? They run a scheduled shuttle service that will take you into hoedspruit, with maybe a hop or 2 around the lowveld? And if you’re going into selected lodges, they will take you directly to the lodge that you are flying in to.

  • Jill

    I so agree with this article .. this is my experience with SAA. Kenyan relatives of mine travelling with a small child were left stranded in Johannesburg because of a cancelled flight and then had to fork out a lot more money to get back to Nairobi. They will certainly not travel via SAA again and neither will their relatives in Durban and Johannesburg .. and neither will their friends or friends friends. I travelled on SAA to Kenya and back recently and was appalled at the nonchalant, bordering on rude, service from the male flight attendants. I too wrote to SAA and got the standard letter back saying they would be. In touch. When I wrote ‘Not holding my breath’, I received the same standard letter. Needless to say .. never heard a peep out of them. SAA need to realise just how efficient and widespread the bush telegraph is or they’ll be running out of passengers!

  • Tony Blignaut

    Like the people in Government who are supposedly running the
    country these parastatal executives are
    untouchable, and the only way to sort them out is by doing what you are doing,
    name and shame and boycott them,
    hopefully they will fold and a real airline will take over the service which
    they are hording by using the organs of State to block any new services.

  • thejollyroger

    Is SAA becoming another Eskom or is it already there?

  • jayefe

    same mentality as the anc led government ; incompetency and arrogance ;

  • Jill Bredenkamp

    We recently had the same problem flying Fly Africa from JHB to Vic falls: flight left late, went via Bulawayo (we booked a direct flight) where we had to get off and clear immigration and cart our luggage through customs. Passengers from Europe and Canada were harassed for visa payments they felt were unfair resulting in further delays. During all this the crew were sullen and uncommunicative. No apology and no offer of water to parched passengers. We lost 1/2 day of our short 3 day trip. Never again will I “Fly Africa”.

  • gary plein

    a few years ago my cousin did a survey on most of the worlds airlines, SAA had more staff per aircraft than any other airline (and they give the worst service) no wonder they have no money

Black Rhino
Black Rhino
Africa Geographic