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Derelict and abandoned: Sad state of affairs at SAA head office

While the national carrier remains mothballed, the airline’s headquarters appears to be receiving no care or maintenance.

DA minister flights corruption ANC

Image: Adobe Stock

A photo recently surfaced on social media, depicting the current condition of the South African Airways’ (SAA) administrative headquarters, and painting a bleak picture of the situation at the national carrier.

SAA headquarters in Johannesburg looks like an abandoned building, with the photo being circulated showing a section of the building sorely lacking in maintenance and surrounded by overgrown vegetation.

The sad condition of the airline’s head office sparked angry and emotional responses.


SAA head office
A section of the SAA head office building that is completely overgrown. The picture was shared to the FlyAfrica Facebook group.

Former and current employees, who chose to remain anonymous, commented on the unsightly condition of the building they used to call “the office” and where they would sign on for duties before flights.

First officer (still employed by the airline): “I have not received a salary since April 2020. It can’t go on like this. I am looking at other options now.”  

Former employee (captain): “I treasure the memories of the wonderful times and the great people I had the privilege of working with.”

Former cabin crew member: “So sad. That was my office for years. I used to sit under those umbrellas outside the standby lounge, where we signed on for duty.”

Current cabin crew member: “To see this is heartbreaking. It’s soul destroying for those of us who work there with pride.”

SAA employee: “This is how the BRPs [business rescue practitioners] care for and maintain the airline’s property, while collecting millions of rand.”


SAA is headquartered at Airways Park, on the grounds of OR Tambo International Airport, in Kempton Park. The 27,000m2 building was completed in March 1997, at a cost of R70 million.

The building was the pride and joy of South Africa’s once award-winning national airline, which was the first African airline to join Star Alliance (the world’s largest global airline alliance) in April 2006.


Through corruption, looting and mismanagement, the airline faced severe financial problems. On 5 December 2019, South African Airways was placed under business rescue.

Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana were appointed as the business rescue practitioners of SAA in December 2019. A Business Recovery Plan was expected by the end of February 2020. This date was extended and then postponed.

In April 2020, a request for further financing was rejected by the government which announced it would stop funding the airline. The airline then announced plans to lay off its remaining staff by the end of the month.


In May 2020, the government announced that SAA would cease operations after 86 years of service and that a new airline would be created out of the ashes of the former national carrier.

The airline has not been operational except for a few repatriation and cargo flights which have been carried out since SAA ceased commercial operations. Airways Park looks like it has been left to rot while the future of the airline is being decided.


As of 1 May 2020, all SAA staff members were placed on unpaid leave due to the airline’s lack of funding. This has meant that no salaries have been paid since the end of April 2020.

In order to complete the business rescue process, agreement must be reached with the airline’s employees regarding the payment of unpaid salaries. The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) stated that it could not afford to pay the airline’s employees more than three months in unpaid salaries.

Two of the unions representing workers at the airline are still rejecting the DPE’s offer of three months’ salaries in final settlement of unpaid salaries. While this stand-off continues, there is little hope that the rescue plan can be implemented and that life can return to the once busy offices at Airways Park.