The SAA Pilots' Association (Saapa) has lambasted government for chartering an empty South African Airways (SAA) cargo plane to fetch a batch of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from Brussels. According to News24, the flight, which left on Wednesday night last week, returned with 80,000 vaccine doses.
Saapa chair Grant Back has estimated the flight will cost around R5m. He said a plane of that size would cost around R200,000 per hour, with a flight time to Europe of most likely around 10 hours. This cost excludes the payment of the staff on board, as well as accommodation for the staff in Belgium.
Back said other commercial flights were scheduled for the same day and could have been used to transport the vaccine for less – especially because the vaccine doses do not take up much space or weight allowance.
The cost of the flight was covered by the government, said Louise Brugman, a spokesperson for SAA's business rescue practitioners. Department of Public Enterprises spokesperson Richard Mantu said: “We need to get the vaccines for the benefit of millions of South Africans. No one is going to bring them to us.”
Full News24 report (Open access)